La Brea Tar Pits

2573 WordsSep 17, 200811 Pages
La Brea Tar Pits Introduction The La Brea tar pits have been well-known for over a century. Before the rise of European settlers, local Indian tribes used the tar to caulk canoes and waterproof tents. As the Industrial Revolution took off the early 1900s, the tar pits attracted oil men, as asphaltum is often associated with petroleum. Then, [w]hen W. W. Orcutt, the original organizer of the geological department of Union Oil of California, reexamined the area in 1901, he discovered "a vast mosaic of white bones" on the surface of a pool of asphalt--the skeleton of a giant ground sloth, a huge armored animal that had been extinct for millions of years. As paleontologists subsequently probed the La Brea tar pits, it became obvious…show more content…
To avoid this, the saber-tooth and other La Brea predators would spend more time with their prey animal carcasses, eating them more closely even at the risk of tooth damage. It is also known that as the number of humans increased, the number of giant predators decreased. While we still do not know for sure whether the humans hunted predators (presumably to eliminate threats rather than as food), outcompeted them for prey, or whether there were climactic changes that encouraged human settlement while limiting opportunities for big prey animals due to the decline in vegetable matter, their food source, leading to a cascade of food source collapses. Non-Megafauna The shift in climate 10,000 years ago took a toll on many different types of animals that can now be found in La Brea. Barlow (2000) notes that " only a half dozen species of Pleistocene dung beetles were fortuitously preserved in the La Brea tar pits of California, along with the bones of ground sloths, sabertooth cats, dire wolves, and carrion-feeding birds." (Barlow 2000, p. 209) Interestingly, despite being from a far older group of species, insects such as beetles may be considered more evolutionarily suited to their environments. Insects are more likely to exist today, unchanged, than are any of the giant Ice Age"megafauna" they have been found alongside in the La Brea tar pits.
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