(Victor Valley)–Visitors to the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands will be treated to a new front lobby experience: Ice Age fossils from north of Las Vegas, Nevada. The fossils are displayed in a colorful kiosk that details the science underlying the discoveries. The kiosk highlights the efforts of the Museum’s Geological Sciences Division in the upper Las Vegas Wash.
The Las Vegas Valley was once home to amazing creatures – mammoths, ground sloths, camels, long-horned bison, and even giant lions. Research conducted over the past decade is revealing new details about the evolution and eventual extinction of these extinct beasts.
“We’re excited to share this new display with our museum members and visitors,” said Kathleen Springer, senior curator of geological sciences. “Our studies provide an expanded and highly detailed geologic framework for understanding the fossils. There’s more to the Ice Ages in Las Vegas than just bones and teeth.”
Extensive fieldwork by the museum in the upper Las Vegas Wash has produced abundant and well-preserved fossil remains of Columbian mammoths – Mammuthus columbi – that date to the Pleistocene Epoch, or “Ice Ages”. “The Las Vegas area appears to have been ‘Mammoth Central’,” said Springer, “and about half of the 600-plus sites we’ve discovered have mammoth fossils in them.”
All those mammoths offered food for ancient predators – and those animals, too, are coming to light. Of particular interest in recent weeks was the discovery by museum scientists of fossils of the extinct sabre-toothed cat, Smilodon fatalis, from the Las Vegas deposits. “We knew these cats were out there somewhere,” said Eric Scott, curator of paleontology. “But actually finding their bones for the first time from the Vegas region – that’s a thrill!”
The real story of the Ice Ages in Las Vegas isn’t just the fossils, it’s the ground in which they are preserved. “The upper Las Vegas Wash holds unique clues to tracking changes in ancient climate through geologic time,” said Springer. “By relating the fossils to their geologic context, we can attempt to see how animals responded to climate changes through time.”
The new lobby kiosk brings this fascinating story to the public. Recently-discovered fossils of mammoths, camels, horses, and bison are showcased, accompanied by historic photos, images of current excavation efforts, and information on the uniqueness of the fossil record in the Las Vegas Valley. The kiosk was funded by the Nevada Bureau of Land Management and designed and assembled by Museum scientists and staff.
“There’s a lot of new science happening right now around Tule Springs,” said Springer. “We want everyone who comes to the County Museum to know about it!”
The San Bernardino County Museum is at the California Street exit from Interstate 10 in Redlands. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 am to 5pm. General admission is $8 (adult), $6 (military or senior), $5 (student), and $4 (child aged 5 to 12). Children under five and Museum Association members are admitted free. Parking is free. For more information, visit www.sb countymuseum.org. The museum is accessible to persons with disabilities. If assistive listening devices or other auxiliary aids are needed in order to participate in museum exhibits or programs, requests should be made through Museum Visitor Services at least three business days prior to your visit. Visitor Services’ telephone number is 909-307-2669 ext. 229 or (TDD) 909-792-1462.