La Brea Tar Pits
|Figure.20 Pools of tar at the La Brea Tar pits.|
In California, not far from Los Angeles, great
reservoirs of tar are preserved. These deposits are known as La Brea Tar Pits.
The tar pits formed when oil made its way to the
surface where evaporation of the oil occurred, leaving pools of tar.
The La Brea Tar Pits are home to a vast number of
Pleistocene vertebrates. In fact, they house over 650 species of
organisms. The pit includes mammals, birds, plants, and insects.
Here we are interested in the mammals. The most abundant animal there is
the dire wolf (www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/quaternary/labrea.html).
Next to the wolf, the sabre-toothed cat is the most
abundantly preserved. Hundreds of thousands of sabre-tooth bones have been
uncovered, which illustrate a vast number of individuals. Of all
the individuals found at the pit, most are carnivores. This can be
explained, in theory, in that if a pack of sabre-tooths were to chase
its prey into the pit, both would die. This theory would account for the
vast number of carnivores, if it occurred approximately once every decade.
This would validate the number of vertebrate carnivores found at the pit
over a 30,000 year period (www. ucmp.berkeley.edu/quaternary/labrea.html).
It is a fortunate process when something like the La Brea
Tar Pits occur. Hopefully, someday similar processes will be discovered
and more can be learned about the past.