2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)
Paper No. 259-2
Presentation Time: 4:05 PM
OLD BONES AND NEON SIGNS: A CENTURY OF RESEARCH AT TULE SPRINGS FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
HARDY, Fabian, Geoscience, University of Nevada Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Pkwy, Las Vegas, NV 89154; Geocorps, Geological Society of America, P.O. Box 9140, Boulder, CO 80301 and BONDE, Aubrey, Department of Geoscience, University of Nevada Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Pkwy, Las Vegas, NV 89154; Geocorps, Geological Society of America, P.O. Box 9140, Boulder, CO 80301, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument (TUSK) is the first National Park Service site to focus on the preservation and interpretation of Pleistocene fossils. Three major units that represent a maximum temporal spread from between 144 to 15 ka have yielded numerous significant fossil localities. Vertebrate fossils are phenomenally prolific and have been recovered from over 500 localities spatially scattered across the extent of the park. Over 100,000 specimens having been removed and preserved and are currently housed between ten prominent institutions. A great diversity in taxa has been recovered from TUSK, represented by about 18 species of megafauna, of which, camel, mammoth, bison, and horse are predominant, yet include other unique taxa including American lion, dire wolf, saber-toothed cat, and two species of ground sloth. Numerous microvertebrates, herpetofauna, aves, and invertebrates have also been recovered. Initial archaeological interest in the site was generated by the 1933 collection of an obsidian flake, unusual for the region. TUSK was host to a high-impact study in the early 1960s, where it saw the first large-scale utilization of radiocarbon dating. Since then, research at the site has been sporadic yet intensive and has nullified the contemporaneity of early humans and megafauna at the locality.
Local groups have consistently proven supportive of the protection of Nevada’s fossil resources, culminating in the formal approval of TUSK in December 2014 by the 113th Congress. Fossils collected by various agencies have been returned to Las Vegas, and will be jointly reposited in the Las Vegas Natural History Museum and the Nevada State Museum, while potential permanent housing is planned and built at the monument.
The reputation of TUSK as a premier site for cutting-edge scientific research in the 1960s may soon be renewed as increased interest and new facilities once again bring attention to the site. The combination of good age control and preservation suggest TUSK is promising for future research in the fields of climate research, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, and even developmental analysis of fauna. Its proximity to a large urban area is an opportunity for educational outreach and public involvement in active paleontologic research programs.