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The North Coast Project

The 'North Coast Project' is an informal or preliminary title for some recent fieldwork I have conducted with several others in the Late Pliocene-Middle Pleistocene of Northern California and Southwestern Oregon. There are a number of units (such as the Wildcat Group; ~7-1 Ma) that have yielded a meager but important suite of marine vertebrate fossils. The most important material from these formations include the only known Early Pleistocene marine vertebrate fossils known from the Northeastern Pacific (not including Alaska). Because of the rarity of Early and Middle Pleistocene marine units, there is a 'gap' in marine vertebrate assemblages between the Late Pliocene (e.g. the 2-4 Ma San Diego Formation), and the latest Pleistocene (e.g. the >500 Ka Palos Verdes Sand). Fossils from this Early Pleistocene 'gap' may shed light on the appearance of sea lions (family Otariidae; Eumetopias and Zalophus) true seals (Mirounga, Phoca) and sea otters (Enhydra spp.), and anagenetic evolution of the Northern Fur Seal (Callorhinus spp.) lineage.

Here are L. Hall (left) and A. Poust prospecting in a Middle Pleistocene coquina, looking for sea otter (Enhydra) and pinniped fossils. Instead, we found two bird bones and a land mammal astragalus.
A. Poust searching for bones and teeth.

A closeup view of the Middle Pleistocene coquina.
A. Poust (left) and L. Hall (right) looking around an outcrop of an Early Pleistocene marine unit.

Here I am, with a large spit and the Pacific Ocean behind me.

A closeup of Early Pleistocene shell beds.

A. Poust attempting to scramble up a 'frozen' debris flow to access some fossiliferous exposures.