Fossil Friday – Camelops tooth

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Today’s Fossil Friday specimen comes from the Pleistocene camel Camelops hesternus, a taxon we’ve featured several times on this blog. But this specimen is special because of where it was found – in Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree NP is best known for its eponymous trees and spectacular granite exposures, but the park also preserves delicate desert habitats, native cultural artifacts, and fossils. A few months ago Western Science Center became a repository for Joshua Tree, and dozens of vertebrate fossils collected under the direction of Kathleen Springer were transferred here. One of the specimens is the tooth shown here, a lower right third molar from Camelops.

To the extent that dating these fossils has been possible, they are roughly equivalent in age to the Diamond Valley Lake and Rancho La Brea fossils. Yet there appear to be real faunal differences distinguishing Joshua Tree from other localities, and there is a lot of exciting research ahead for these fossils.

Another thing in their future is an exhibit. WSC is opening a new temporary exhibit, “Fossils of Joshua Tree National Park”, which will include representative fossils from this collection. There is an opening reception for museum members tonight, and the exhibit will open to the general public tomorrow morning. Thanks to Vincent Santucci from the National Park Service, Melanie Spoo and the staff of Joshua Tree National Park, and Kathleen Springer of the USGS for making WSC the fossil repository for Joshua Tree and making this exhibit possible.

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