The La Brea Tar Pits is a National Natural Landmark that is in the middle of downtown Los Angeles in California. The tar pits were discovered by the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola in August 1769. Tar pits are created when crude oil from deep in the ground seeps through the surface soil. The sun will evaporate
part of the oil, and all that is left is a very thick, sticky and heavy tar or asphalt.
• Another name for the area is Rancho La Brea; it is Spanish for “the tar ranch.”
• The Page Museum is located at the pits and displays many of the fossils that have been found there.
• It has the largest and most diverse collection of extinct ice age plants and animals.
• Native Americans used the tar to waterproof baskets and canoes.
• Between 1870 and 1890, a family mined and sold the asphalt.
• Fossils were rst recorded in the pits in 1875.
• In 1916, the area was donated to Los Angeles County so the area could be preserved and explored.
• Scientists have found living bacteria in the tar.
• Some of the species found are so different from what lives in the area today because 40,000 years ago the area was cooler and wetter.
• There are still excavations and projects nding fossils.
• Pit 91 is a long-term excavation e ort that the museum sta has been working on for 40 years.
• They still work on it every summer.
• Tar pits usually form in pools.
Sometimes dust, leaves and other debris can cover the tar pits so that they look like regular ground. Animals will wander into these areas and get stuck in the thick substance. Scientists also noticed that most of the fossils in the pit are carnivorous. This is interesting because there are usually 90 percent more herbivores than carnivores in an area. It is thought that entire packs of animals might chase prey into the pits and then the predators and the prey would get stuck and preserved in the pits. The second largest group of animals found was the scavengers. These animals may have also gotten stuck trying to eat the animals already caught in the tar.