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Books for nature lovers: Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert

Anza-Borrego Desert Wash
Anza-Borrego Desert WashDarlene Luckins

Imagine a warm, almost tropical seashore with walruses and seals. Or, a warm, humid forest with a river running through it that empties into a lake. Palm trees and tropical plants all around. A plover like a killdeer run along the river banks and maybe an elephant or a horse in the distance. This is not some far away place in the tropics, it’s right here in San Diego County.

Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert is a book about what used to be out in San Diego’s east county. It goes back as far as about 7 million years ago when Borrego Springs was a coastal property near an inland sea. Though the book was originally released in 2006, it’s still a fascinating read. Most of its 394 pages are filled with great graphics with photos, paintings, and charts. It’s based on the cumulative research of the area over the last 150 years.

Before the Laguna Mountains were high enough to block the moist, cooler breezes from the coast, the Anza-Borrego Desert was an area with rich and diverse wildlife. Large numbers of fossils from the elephant family as well as bear, big cats, and large herbivores show that this area was right in plant and animal life. Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert points out significant discoveries in local fossils and gives examples of how the land has changed over time in the form of paintings.

As the mountains “grew” over the millions of years, the land became dried out and more desert-like. Remnants of these times can still be seen in the forms of Washingtonia fan palm groves and some of the birds and animals that still inhabit the area. In many of the paintings, one can recognize many familiar species that still live there or can be seen elsewhere in the world.

For anyone interested in paleontology, geology, climate change, or the natural history of the desert, this would book would be a great read for them. While it is available at many of San Diego’s libraries, it’s also available for purchase online at various venues. This book isn’t cheap, but it’s worth the price.