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The Felidae of Rancho La Brea

Merriam, John C. and Stock, Chester (1932) The Felidae of Rancho La Brea. Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication. No.422. Carnegie Institution of Washington , Washington, DC, -92.

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Were one to select any single item to illustrate the most striking phase in the long list of exceptional features of our North American Pleistocene life as exhibited by the Rancho La Brea fauna, it would presumably be the representation of the Felidae. Excepting only the dire wolves, no group in the fauna of Rancho La Brea is represented by such a multitude of specimens, ranging up to more than one thousand individuals of the sabre-tooth cat and an exceptionally large number of individuals of the great lion-like cat, with a limited number of smaller types. It is certain that no other deposit thus far known in the history of paleontology has furnished such a marvelous abundance of perfectly preserved material. Moreover, there are to be found in this assemblage the highest and most efficient stages in evolution of two great divisions of the cat group; one being shown in the sabre-tooth, the acme of cat specialization on this line, the other represented in the magnificent Felis atrox, a veritable giant of the true cat tribe. Among the smaller cats occurring at Rancho La Brea the puma and the wildcat are definitely recorded. While the frequency of occurrence of these various types undoubtedly reflects the environmental conditions prevailing in the vicinity of Rancho La Brea during the period of accumulation of the asphalt deposits, it likewise suggests the approach which the entire assemblage makes to the living fauna of the region. Thus, while the Rancho La Brea cats include in their number types like those of the present, such as puma and wildcat, the geologic antiquity of the fauna as a whole is emphasized by the preponderance of extinct representatives of the feline group. In the number and variety of types represented, the Rancho La Brea group of cats exhibits a striking similarity to that described from the British caves. Increased appreciation of the unusual characteristics of the larger Pleistocene members of the cat tribe has come unquestionably with more inti- mate knowledge of the great living felines. A broad survey of the Quaternary history of the Felidae emphasizes the wide distribution and importance of this family in the past, and illustrates that principle of change which has brought about restriction of range and extinction in so many groups of mammals.

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Additional Information:© 1932 Carnegie Institution of Washington. The following study was initiated at the University of California by John C. Merriam, then Professor of Paleontology and Historical Geology in the University. It was continued as a research project by Mr. Merriam as President of the Carnegie Institution of Washington with collaboration of Chester Stock, Professor of Paleontology at California Institute of Technology, Paleontologist at the Los Angeles Museum, and Research Associate of Carnegie Institution of Washington. Grateful acknowledgment is made to the institutions which have contributed toward furtherance of the research. During the early stages in the study of the Felidae from the asphalt, the important collections obtained by the Department of Paleontology, University of California, furnished the basis for first review of these types. The splendid facilities offered by the Los Angeles Museum in the conduct of the research on the Rancho La Brea fauna and the cordial cooperation of those who have come to serve as guardians of this famous collection are responsible for progress made in forwarding these studies The unflagging interest shown in the pursuit of the investigation by the late director, Dr. Frank S. Daggett, and by the present director, Dr. Wm. Alanson Bryan, has been a source of helpfulness and encouragement. Our indebtedness to these gentlemen is gratefully acknowledged. Sincere thanks are due also to the Museum Board of Governors and to the Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles County for their generous support of research through opportunities afforded by this great collection. The large number of specimens available from the asphalt deposits made necessary much patience and care on the part of those directly concerned with the preparation, cataloguing and mounting of the materials. The excellent mounted skeletons of the sabre-tooth cat and great true cat were prepared by James W. Lytle, Assistant Vertebrate Paleontologist. Mr. Lytle has likewise rendered much valuable aid in the assembling of specimens for study and display. H. A. Wylde of the Museum staff has also been of material assistance on numerous occasions. The wash drawings and text-figures were prepared with much care and patience by the artist, John L. Ridgway. In arranging the illustrative materials for text and plates the authors have profited likewise by Mr. Ridgway's long experience. Charles R. Knight has created the restorations of the Rancho La Brea cats shown in the text. The photographs, unless otherwise indicated, are the work of H. Wm. Menke. Where necessary, the latter illustrations have been retouched by Mr. Ridgway. Skull and skeletal material representing the modern lion, tiger, and jaguar, of great value in making comparisons, were kindly loaned by the U. S. National Museum. Permission to study the series of skulls of Recent cats in the collections of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, was kindly granted by Dr. Joseph Grinnell, Director.
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Balch Graduate School of the Geological Sciences105
Series Name:Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication
Issue or Number:422
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200122-134845786
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:100847
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:23 Jan 2020 00:33
Last Modified:23 Jan 2020 00:33

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