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Prehistoric Merced fossils on display in library

The jaw of a bison that lived in the area more than 12,000 years ago is on display at the Merced County Library in an exhibit of fossils salvaged during the construction of the Plainsburg-Arboleda Freeway Project.
The jaw of a bison that lived in the area more than 12,000 years ago is on display at the Merced County Library in an exhibit of fossils salvaged during the construction of the Plainsburg-Arboleda Freeway Project. bcalix@mercedsun-star.com

Visitors to the Merced County Library have the chance this summer to catch a glimpse of the prehistoric era and the animals that lived in Merced 12,000 years ago through a new fossil exhibit.

The fossils were discovered during work on the Plainsburg-Arboleda Freeway Project along Highway 99, which the California Department of Transportation began in 2012. The fossils were 25 feet deep in the ground.

A paleontological dig salvaged nearly 2,000 fossils of extinct species including mammoths, bison, camels, horses and dogs. Jaw bones and vertebrae from those animals are displayed in the library exhibit, which is part of a collection of more than 1,000 artifacts used for research at UC Merced.

The fossils are from animals that lived in Merced when the climate was cooler and wetter than it is today, much like that of marshlands and savannas.

The exhibit is accompanied by books on fossils, dinosaurs, paleontology and more that are available to check out.

The exhibit opened this month, and many library visitors on Tuesday saw the fossils for the first time.

Phoenix Alexander, 9, visits the library with his family every week. The exhibit piqued his interest immediately on Tuesday, his first time seeing it.

As 3-year-old Harlow Hatz-Lopez peered at the fossils, her mother, Staci Hatz, identified the animal each fossil came from as Harlow pointed them out.

County Librarian Amy Taylor said she hopes the exhibit will spur an interest in science among young readers.

“Having the fossils in the library allows Merced County residents a chance to see and experience these museum-quality specimens up close,” Taylor said in a statement. “It is marvelous to see children’s faces light up with wonderment as they approach the exhibit.”

The exhibit is in the children’s section of the Merced County Library, 2100 O St. in Merced. The exhibit will be on display all summer.

The library is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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