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California storms unearth ancient fossils

The December storms that hit California have turned out to be blessing for fossil hunters.

Dotted on the beaches and in the sandstone cliffs in the Bay area, scientists have found fossils that date back to anywhere from 5,000 to 10 million years ago, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Marine biologist Giancarlo Thomae was among them. He found a megalodon tooth on a public beach in Santa Cruz County that could be as many as 10 million years old. The tooth came from what would have been the prehistoric equivalent of a 60-foot great white shark. Earlier, Thomae discovered a great white shark tooth that was estimated to be 4 million years old.

Other discoveries dating back millions of years included the tooth of an extinct mammal (Paleoparadoxia) that was similar to a hippopotamus, ribs from an extinct Steller's sea cow, teeth from an extinct species of sea lion and 20 species of ancient sharks.

The region is known as a hotbed for fossils and finds like this are common after big Pacific storms. The area was once a sea floor and scientists have found marine deposits that are 10 million to 12 million years old.

Previously, a tooth from a saber-toothed cat, likely more than 10,000 years old, was found by national park ranger Steve Prokop in the cliffs at Fort Funston in San Francisco, the newspaper reported.

Along with beaches, volcanic ash deposits in cliff walls that face the beach have also proven prime fossil sites, as have other sites further inland. Searching the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Thomae also found an ancient bison tooth estimated to be about 5,000 years old.

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