First records of Canis dirus and Smilodon fatalis from the late Pleistocene Tule Springs local fauna, upper Las Vegas Wash, Nevada
- Eric Scott and Kathleen Springer
Late Pleistocene groundwater discharge deposits (paleowetlands) in the upper Las Vegas Wash north of Las Vegas, Nevada, have yielded an abundant and diverse vertebrate fossil assemblage, the Tule Springs local fauna (TSLF). The TSLF is the largest open-site vertebrate fossil assemblage dating to the Rancholabrean North American Land Mammal Age in the southern Great Basin and Mojave Desert. Over 600 discrete body fossil localities have been recorded from the wash, including an area that now encompasses Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument (TUSK). Paleowetland sediments exposed in TUSK named the Las Vegas Formation span the last 250 ka, with fossiliferous sediments spanning ∼100–13 ka. The recovered fauna is dominated by remains of Camelopsand Mammuthus, and also includes relatively common remains of extinct Equusand Bisonas well as abundant vertebrate microfaunal fossils. Large carnivorans are rare, with only Puma concolor and Panthera atrox documented previously. Postcranial remains assigned to the species Canis dirus (dire wolf) and Smilodon fatalis(sabre-toothed cat) represent the first confirmed records of these species from the TSLF, as well as the first documentation of Canis dirus in Nevada and the only known occurrence of Smilodonin southern Nevada. The size of the recovered canid fossil precludes assignment to other Pleistocene species of Canis. The morphology of the felid elements differentiates them from other large predators such as Panthera, Homotherium, and Xenosmilus, and the size of the fossils prevents assignment to other species of Smilodon. The confirmed presence of S. fatalis in the TSLF is of particular interest, indicating that this species inhabited open habitats. In turn, this suggests that the presumed preference of S. fatalis for closed-habitat environments hunting requires further elucidation.
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- Journal Article
- First records of Canis dirus and Smilodon fatalis from the late Pleistocene Tule Springs local fauna, upper Las Vegas Wash, Nevada
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- Contributing office(s):
- Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
- e2151;17 p.