Tar pits around the world are unusual in accumulating more predators than prey. The reason for this is unknown, but one theory is that a large prey animal would die or become stuck in a tar pit, attracting predators across long distances. This predator trap would catch predators along with their prey. Another theory is that dire wolves and their prey may have been trapped during a hunt. Since modern wolves hunt in packs, each prey animal could take several wolves with it.

La Brea Tarpits

La Brea Tarpits

La Brea Tarpits

La Brea Tarpits

La Brea Tarpits

La Brea Tarpits

La Brea Tarpits

La Brea Tarpits

La Brea Tarpitsjpg

Brea is Spanish for "tar." The "tar" pits were used as a source of asphalt (for use as low-grade fuel and for waterproofing and insulation) by early settlers of the Los Angeles area. The original Rancho La Brea land grant stipulated that the tar pits be open to the public for the use of the local Pueblo. Initially, they mistook the bones in the pits for the remains of pronghorn antelope or cattle that had become mired.

La Brea Tar Pits!

In today's ecosystems herbivores are much more abundant than carnivores. It is therefore curious that at La Brea about 90% of the mammal fossils found represent carnivores. Most of the bird fossils are also predators or scavengers, including vultures, condors, eagles, and giant, extinct, storklike birds known as teratorns. Why is this the case? If a pack of carnivorous mammals were to chase a lone prey animal into the tar pits, both predators and prey would become trapped.

Smilodon. La Brea Tar Pits/ Page Museum 5801 Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90036 (323) 934-7243. The George C. Page Museum is dedicated to researching the tar pits and displaying specimens from the animals that died there. The La Brea Tar Pits are now a registered National Natural Landmark.

Dire Wolf Canis Dirus Dire wolves are the most common large mammal from Rancho La Brea and remains of more than 4,000 individuals have been retrieved from the asphalt deposits. Most were probably trapped while attempting to feed on other animals stuck in the asphalt.

Pit 91 Re-Opened In 1969 the Pit 91 excavation was re-opened with the intent of collecting all the fossils and not just the large vertebrates. As a result the list of species doubled and now over 600 species of plants and animals are known from Rancho La Brea.

la Brea Tar Pits, Mastodons from Rancho La Brea tend to be smaller than those found at other localities. They are represented by at least 15 individuals including a baby from Project 23.

1913-1915 Excavations In 1913, the Hancock family gave the newly established Los Angeles County Museum sole right to excavate fossils from the tar pits for two years. Led by L. E. Wyman, excavators earned 3.50 a day, decent wages for 1913.

Los Angeles was somewhat cooler and moister 40,000 years ago than it is today. Many of the plants and animals found in La Brea are identical or almost identical with species that still live in the area -- or that would be living in the area had Los Angeles not gotten in the way. Yet a number of the large animal species found at La Brea are no longer found in North America: native horses, camels, mammoths and mastodons, longhorned bison, and sabre-toothed cats.

Grand Canyon