Ranger discovers ancient fossils in California valley. ‘Right place at the right time’


A “significant” scientific discovery was uncovered in the Mokelumne River watershed in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Greg Francek, a ranger for East Bay Municipal Utility District, explained how he found fossils from millions of years ago last summer when he was surveying the valley.

“I looked around the area further and I discovered a second tree,” Francek said in an EBMUD statement released Thursday. “And then a third and so on. After finding dozens of trees I realized that what I was looking at was the remains of a petrified forest.”

Petrified wood comes from plant material that was protected from decay when it was buried in sediment; it then turned to stone when groundwater flowed through the sediment.

Francek then found fossilized bone from an “unknown vertebrae animal” in the forest.

“It really was a ‘right place at the right time,’ type of thing,” Francek said, according to KTXL. “When I found the bones, I knew they were bones, but what I didn’t realize at that moment was I was actually looking at the bones of great beasts that had once roamed this landscape, millions of years before.”

Francek sought out paleontology and geology experts, who have made even more discoveries in the area.

Those fossil discoveries include elephant-like mastodons, prehistoric 400-pound salmon with spiked teeth, camel, a three-toed horse, tortoise and a “pig-like mammal” called tapir.

The bones are believed to be from the Miocene era, which was from 23.8 million to 5.3 million years ago. Around 1.4 million residents of the San Francisco Bay area get their water from the the Mokelumne River watershed and EBMUD has managed 28,000 acres of land in the watershed for about 100 years.

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