California Coastal Trail

Rancho Palos Verdes: Nature Preserves and Natural History

Palos Verdes Peninsula, as previously noted, is host to a bounty of human history. It's also home to fascinating natural history, some of it noticeably playing out before our very own eyes.

"We are walking over a million years of history; we're standing on what was under water 120,000 years ago," starts off Allen Franz, a Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy board member, in the above video. "If we dug straight down we'd run into everything from sharks teeth, fish scales, whale bones, mammoths, and saber tooth cats, and giant bison, and things like that."

Things like that, indeed. A local school teacher in 2014 made an on-campus discovery of a sperm whale fossil that could be over 10 million years old and a new species. It was carefully shipped off to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for study.

California Coastal Trail hikers might not be so lucky on the fossil front, but the trail offers plenty of opportunity to witness the processes of natural history. Take, for example, two unique, endemic butterflies.

"We have a Palos Verdes Blue butterfly that's not found anywhere else in the world. We have an El Segundo Blue butterfly that's found along the coast of the peninsula here to north about as far as LAX and no where else in the world," explains Franz. "Each of those have very specific relationships with plants. The Palos Verdes Blue butterfly, for example, only feeds on two related plants: astragalus and deer weed (Lotus scoparius). The El Segundo Blue butterfly only feeds on coastal buckwheat -- so they're very specialized relationships and that holds true for many of the other plants and animals in the area."

Check it all out for yourself. Hiking guides can be found over at the conservancy's website and will take you to three of the four cities on the peninsula, including Rancho Palos Verdes, where this video was filmed.

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