Plaster covered fossil
A paleontologist with an unearthed fossil that has been covered with protective plaster. Courtesy Caltrans

An large fossil deposit containing skeletal remains of extinct mammals, including camels, oreodonts, rodents and possibly a large carnivore, was recently unearthed during highway construction for the new Otay Mesa East Port of Entry.

The fossils are estimated to be 16 million to 28 million years old and provide new insights into the region’s geologic history.

Identified by experts from the San Diego Natural History Museum, the fossils appear to be from a new geologic formation that has not been mapped before in the area. The deposit also contains plant fossils, as well as masses of rock ejected by an ancient volcano.

“For paleontologists, this is a dream come true,” said Tom Demere, curator of paleontology at the museum. “We have the opportunity to be the first humans to ever see these remains.”

The fossils are being encased in protective plaster before being taken to the museum for detailed examination and future display.

The construction project a joint venture between Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments to create a third major port of entry and reduce crossing times.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.