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Science Briefing

Venezuela tar pit yields a surprise

August 23, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

An ancient tar pit exposed when Venezuelan oil workers laid a pipeline has yielded a rich trove of fossils, including a type of saber-toothed cat that paleontologists had never before been found in South America.

The fossils are 1.8 million years old and include the skulls and jawbones of six scimitar-toothed cats -- a variety of saber-toothed cat with shorter, narrower canine teeth than other species.

Researchers led by Venezuelan paleontologist Ascanio Rincon announced the discovery this month, saying that in addition to proving the cat once lived there, the find also should offer a rare window into the environment shortly after North and South America became connected.

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