|Photo by Mrs. Geotripper|
But...fossils? In the Sierra Nevada? Isn't the Sierra Nevada composed of granitic rock? Granite and other plutonic rocks develop from cooling magma deep in the Earth's crust, an environment that is neither conducive to life, nor to the preservation of fossils. A quick look at a geologic map reveals that the Sierra is only about three-quarters exposed granitic rock. Most of the remainder is composed of metamorphic slate and metavolcanic greenstone, with a fair amount of serpentinite (California's state rock).
The Mariposa formation is a deposit that formed on the bottom of a deep sea off the coast of California in Jurassic time. The shoreline lay east of where it is today, and the Sierra Nevada was a different place: a series of active volcanoes led to a coastal forest. Dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and primitive mammals roamed the forests and floodplains. In the sea, large swimming reptiles including plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs were to be found. The Mariposa is somewhat less altered than many other rocks of the metamorphic belt, and because of this, a few fossils have been found, fossils that enabled geologist to figure out the age of the rocks, an important step in unraveling the complex geologic history of the region.
The Mariposa formation is exposed along Highway 49, and we were searching for fossils in the vicinity of Don Pedro Reservoir. To my great delight, after a bit of sweating and slipping down wet grassy slopes we found some interesting specimens.
http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520233157 or any other online seller. I give it my highest recommendation!