A middle to late Pleistocene sedimentary sequence in the upper Las Vegas Wash, north of Las Vegas, Nevada, has yielded the largest open-site Rancholabrean vertebrate fossil assemblage in the southern Great Basin and Mojave Deserts. Recent paleontologic field studies have led to the discovery of hundreds of fossil localities and specimens, greatly extending the geographic and temporal footprint of original investigations in the early 1960s. The significance of the deposits and their entombed fossils led to the preservation of 22,650 acres of the upper Las Vegas Wash as Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument. These discoveries also warrant designation of the assemblage as a local fauna, named for the site of the original paleontologic studies at Tule Springs.
The large mammal component of the Tule Springs local fauna is dominated by remains of Mammuthus columbi as well as Camelops hesternus, along with less common remains of Equus (including E. scotti) and Bison. Large carnivorans including Canis dirus, Smilodon fatalis, and Panthera atrox are also recorded. Micromammals, amphibians, lizards, snakes, birds, invertebrates, plant macrofossils, and pollen also occur in the deposits and provide important and complementary paleoenvironmental information. The fauna occurs within the Las Vegas Formation, an extensive and stratigraphically complex sequence of groundwater discharge deposits that represent a mosaic of desert wetland environments. Radiometric and luminescence dating indicates the sequence spans the last ∼570 ka, and records hydrologic changes in a dynamic and temporally congruent response to northern hemispheric abrupt climatic oscillations. The vertebrate fauna occurs in multiple stratigraphic horizons in this sequence, with ages of the fossils spanning from ∼100 to ∼12.5 ka.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||The Tule Springs local fauna: Rancholabrean vertebrates from the Las Vegas Formation, Nevada|
|Series title||Quaternary International|
|Contributing office(s)||Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center|