Paleontologists say extensive research in a Nevada desert has revealed an exciting discovery.
California's San Bernardino County Museum reports a pair of fossils dug up in the Tule Springs region near Las Vegas back in June were confirmed earlier this month as being the front leg bones from the extinct predator, the saber-toothed cat.
“We’re ecstatic,” exclaims Kathleen Springer, Senior Curator for the San Bernardino County Museum and lead scientist for studies in the upper Las Vegas Wash.
“We’ve been saying for years that these critters were out here, somewhere. It was just a matter of time until we found one,” she added.
Springer says the saber-tooth fossils are thought to be approximately 15,590 years old, according to analyses.
The California museum team has been combing the upper Las Vegas Wash for fossils from the Pleistocene Epoch, the “Ice Ages,” for over a decade and have been collecting fossils there under a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management since 2008, finding hundreds of sites and thousands of fossils.
Some of the fossils found include the bones and teeth of mammoths, camels, horses, and bison but the saber-tooth fossils are the first of its kind.
The ongoing research in the Tule Springs region goes beyond just finding fossils, however.
“We’re building on earlier studies,” says Springer, “and expanding what they learned. We’re seeing clear signals of regional responses to climatic changes through time, preserved here in the rock record, which have never been recognized before."
"The fossils are part of that picture, but there’s so much more going on here,” she added.
The saber-toothed cat fossils are still being studied and there are no immediate plans to display them, but Springer expects that to happen eventually.