But first, here are some interesting inferences about North American Lions, provided by our fair leader, collections manager Christopher A Shaw:
- North American Lions showed up in their eponymous continent (North America) around 400k years ago
- They were probably not social animals -- in other words, there were no prides of these particular lions. We think this for two reasons:
- We don't find nearly as many of them as we do dire wolves and sabertooth cats, and not with nearly the same range of ontogenetic age. For example, we've found approximately 6 North American Lions in Pit 91, compared to around 50 Saber-toothed Cats.
- In a pride of African lions, the ratio of males to females is 1:6 or 1:7. Here at Rancho La Brea the ratio is about 1:1. Thus: no African Lion-esque prides. North American Lions likely had a more solitary lifestyle, more akin to that of a mountain lion.
Back to our skull: after months of carefully using dental picks to clear out the surrounding matrix, we eventually had to resort to brute force to get the lion skull out.
Background soundtrack provided by: Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal on NPR; Laura Tewksbury singing; various lab volunteers cheering; and me saying "there's a frickin humerus attached to it!" A great orator, I am not...
Though quality on this video isn't the best, it is good enough to show just how tough it is to get something out of an asphaltic deposit. Even after putting all of my weight behind the skull, at first it barely moves. However, after some artful wiggling (and a decent amount of luck) it's out!
The skull itself is an absolutely beautiful specimen; it's the most complete P. atrox skull we've gotten out of the current excavations (i.e. Pit 91 and Project 23).
And now that the skull's out, we can get on with our excavation.
As for our skull...
Laura promptly carried it off to the lab, and rumor has it that Herb will begin cleaning it in a few weeks. We think we'll name it Fluffy.