The Rancho La Brea Tar Pits is an area where many fossils were recovered in the beginning of the twentieth century. These fossils were found in tar pits because the animals roaming at the time, which included birds and mammals, thought the pits were water wells and subsequently became trapped. The La Brea Tar Pits is such an amazing area because so many different species have been identified in one area, including the no longer living such as the megafaunal saber-tooth cat, bear, lion, wolf, camel, bison, and mastodon.
The most curious thing about the La Brea tar pits is the startling amount of predators found in them. Normally, tar pits contain mostly herbivores. However, 90% of the fossils found in La Brea belong to predators. La Brea is called a predator trap for this reason. Herbivores,or other prey items, would get stuck in the pits. A predator would come along, thinking they had an easy meal, and get stuck in the tar. Other predators and scavengers would arrive to eat that easy meal and get stuck. The vicious cycle of attempted predation and sticky failure is why such a spectacular array of predator fossils are found at La Brea today.
The La Brea tar pits are believed to be the product of hundreds of thousands of years of work. At one point (around 1 million years ago) this area of Los Angeles was at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. As the ocean pulled back, approximately 100,000 years ago, this area became land. For the last 40,000 years the crude oil has been seeping up through cracks in the ground–leaving pools of stagnant oil. As animals wandered the area they would become fastened in the sticky land, and the rest is history.
Photo Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_Brea_Tar_Pits.jpg
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