The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 28, 2013

Scientists dig for fossils in LA a century later

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Surrounded by a gooey graveyard of prehistoric beasts, a small crew diligently wades through a backlog of fossil finds from a century of excavation at the La Brea Tar Pits in the heart of Los Angeles.

Digs over the years have unearthed bones of mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and other unsuspecting Ice Age creatures that became trapped in ponds of sticky asphalt. But it's the smaller discoveries — plants, insects and rodents — in recent years that are shaping scientists' views of life in the region 11,000 to 50,000 years ago.

"Earlier excavations really missed a great part of the story," said John Harris, chief curator at the George C. Page Museum, which oversees the fossil collection. People "were only taking out bones they could see, but it's the hidden bones that provide clues to the environment."

The museum on Monday celebrates 100 years of digging, which has recovered some 5.5 million bones representing more than 600 species of animals and plants, the richest cache of Ice Age fossils.

There's so much left to do that it could easily take another century to complete. On a recent Wednesday, a volunteer in a white lab coat pounded away at a bison skull in the museum's fishbowl laboratory where visitors can witness paleontology in action. Nearby, two workers hunched over microscopes, sorting bone fragments belonging to extinct creatures.

In the back storage, floor-to-ceiling shelves of wooden crates house bones that need to be cleaned, identified or labeled. The museum estimates it has 100,000 specimens to catalog and another million to scrub.

Long before skyscrapers towered over Wilshire Boulevard, giant beasts ruled the land. Back then, sagebrush scrub covered the basin, home to herds of mammoths, bison, camels and ground sloths. Mastodons hung out in the woodlands. Lurking were meat-eating predators including saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and giant jaguars.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Midwest economic index slumped in July Mid-America Business Conditions Index dropped more than 3½ percentage points

    August 1, 2014

  • Minnesota gay marriage law reaches anniversary ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — It's been a year since Minnesota's gay and lesbian couples got the right to legally marry. The anniversary of the state allowing same-sex marriage arrived Friday. It was a quieter scene than last year when couples lined up to

    August 1, 2014

  • 35 killed, soldier missing as Gaza truce unravels GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A Gaza cease-fire quickly unraveled Friday as violence erupted in and around the southern town of Rafah, with 35 Palestinians killed by Israeli shelling and the military saying one of its soldiers may have been abducted.

    August 1, 2014

  • Minimum wage increases to $8 an hour in Minnesota ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minimum-wage earners in Minnesota get a pay raise to $8 an hour. For Minnesota's lowest-paid workers, the most welcome move the Legislature made this year was increasing the minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade.

    August 1, 2014

  • Congress racing to finish Congress races to finish veterans, highway bills

    July 31, 2014

  • Target New CEO [Duplicate] Target names Pepsi's Cornell as chairman, CEO MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Target has hired Pepsi executive Brian Cornell as its new chairman and CEO as it looks to recover from a huge data breach and troubles in Canada. Cornell replaces interim CEO John Mulligan, who is chief financial officer for the M

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brain wave monitoring is better gauge than using a focus group, study says To predict a large population’s likely response to something — a product, politician or policy — political consultants, marketing gurus and advertising execs have long favored the focus group. Ask a small segment of the target audience what it thinks

    July 31, 2014

  • Argentina slides into default as debt talks fail NEW YORK (AP) — The collapse of talks with U.S. creditors sent Argentina into its second debt default in 13 years and raised questions about what comes next for financial markets and the South American nation's staggering economy. A midnight Wednesd

    July 31, 2014

  • Exchange Bee Researcher [Duplicate] Bee researcher takes aim at central Minnesota park WAITE PARK — Crystal Boyd strained four bees, three flies and one leafhopper from a yellow pan trap, the third of 12 in a transect topping a granite outcrop in Quarry Park Scientific and Natural Area.She popped everything into a labeled, zip-top plas

    July 31, 2014 4 Photos

  • Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies at 90 Filmmaker Robert Drew, a pioneer of the modern documentary who in "Primary" and other movies mastered the intimate, spontaneous style known as cinema verite and schooled a generation of influential directors that included D.A. Pennebaker and Albert M

    July 30, 2014