LONG BEACH – A geologist searching for earthquake faults at a construction site found something even more earth-shattering: the 100,000-year-old fossilized remains of a North American camel.
Thursday’s discovery by Robert Lemmer yielded four vertebrae — the sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae, the thoracic vertebra and a neck vertebra. On Friday, another neck vertebra was discovered in a trench dug to search for quake faults in the parking lot of a bowling alley.
Fossilized bones were covered in a plaster solution by two paleontological preparers, Howell Thomas and Doug Goodreau, and transported to a laboratory at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.
No more remains were found in the area.
“That would indicate it was either the kill of a predator or scavenged by something after it died, and the animal dragged off the other parts leaving the vertebrae behind,” Thomas said. “Of course, that’s just a guess. There’s no way to know for sure. But it’s a reasonable explanation.”
Thomas determined the exact species of the camel by comparing its bones with those of another camel at the museum.
Camels originated in North America 15 million years ago, and as they died out on this continent, they spread to Africa and into the Middle East.
“This really puts Long Beach on the map for something we’ve never had before,” said city geologist Don Clarke. “This is the first time we’ve ever found any large land vertebrates. It’s really kind of cool.”