Ancient camel bones found at California construction site

A search for earthquake faults at a construction site in Long Beach, Calif., instead turned up the fossilized remains of a 10,000-year-old North American camel.

Project geologist Robert Lemmer found three vertebrae, two ribs and a portion of leg bone Thursday in a 12-foot-deep trench workers dug in the parking lot of a bowling alley. The discovery marks the first time the vertebrae of a large land mammal have been found in Long Beach, Lemmer told the Long Beach Press Telegram.

“This really puts Long Beach on the map for something we’ve never had before,” city geologist Don Clarke told the Associated Press.

Workers dug the trench in compliance with a state law that requires fault line trenching when a site is considered for development. The Long Beach Unified School District wanted to build a new school at the site, but decided not to when a possible fault line was discovered in the first trench.

Howell Thomas, a paleontologist with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, said the remains have to be at least 10,000 years old because fossilization – when inorganic matter replaces organic matter – cannot take place earlier.

Scientists say camels originated in North America 15 million years ago. As they died out here, they spread to Africa and the Middle East.