The area was shallow and rich with sea life. The marine animals lived and died there by the millions for as long as 700,000 years, the scientists say. And there is no evidence, they say, that the animals all died at once from some lethal red tide or in a violent earthquake. The loss of life there was gradual. Eventually, sediments buried the bones and created a fossil-rich underwater shelf that is arguably the richest "bone bed" in the world, the scientists say.There are probably other areas like this. It is nice to see so much in the way of fossils. How important is this area?
Much, much later, earthquakes heaved the undersea burial ground upward as the restless San Andreas Fault lurched and lurched again. Even more fossil layers were uncovered as sea-level surges during a long period of global warming finally subsided, the scientists said.
"It's as important to science and the public as the Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and Colorado, and the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles," he said.More pieces of the puzzle.
In fact, the entire fossil bed appears to be huge, Pyenson said. It lies exposed to the surface for nearly 10 miles, he said. But from the team's surveys and information from oil drilling crews, it probably covers more than 20 square miles at the very least - much of it in private hands, he said.
"It's a fantastic natural feature, and our work there is a synthesis of evidence about the Earth's history, the ocean's history and the history of biology," Pyenson said.