via Smithsonian

Our planet is constantly changing. From the beginning of life hundreds of millions of years ago, many are the species that have roamed Earth and that have evolved to become the animals that exist today and others that found a different fate and became extinct.

Most of the great changes on our planet have left records that scientists have used for decades to try to uncover the mysteries of the past.

Just over 10 years ago, Greg Francek, a park ranger from the East Bay Municipal Utility District in California, was conducting a routine patrol in Mokelumne River Watershed, located in the Sierra Nevada when he inadvertently found a petrified forest.

After a few weeks of research in this petrified forest, Greg came across the remains of some ancient, fossilized animals, and paleontologists and geologists from California State University were summoned there so that they could further investigate the find.

Over a decade, scientists have found hundreds of fossilized animals of different species at the site in what has become the most important and most fossil-filled site in California, increasing in importance with each new find.

Scientists have managed to unearth fossils of horses, tapirs, very tall camels, giant salmon species, and a type of elephant with 4 tusks, as well as many species of plants.

It is presumed that all these fossils arrived at the site because some of the animals inhabited that exact area but that others were relatively closed and were moved by floods and volcanic eruptions that caused the movement of sediments in the surrounding areas.

“The bones paint a clearer picture of life 10 million years ago when animals evolved from living in forests to grassland as the landscape changed,” Russell Shapiro told the California State University paleontologist.

Investigations at the site have not stopped in recent years and it is estimated that they will not stop for a few more years. Meanwhile, one of the most valuable pieces recovered, an eight-million-year-old mastodon skull with both tusks intact will be being exhibited at California State University, Chico’s Gateway Science Museum from September so that everyone can appreciate a piece of the history of our incredible planet