The La Brea Tar Pits
For some scientists, there is no better place than La Brea, California. If you want to study animals from thousands of years ago, La Brea may be the best place in the world. That is because La Brea is home to the La Brea tar pits. Tar comes from oil. Today, we have large tar factories because it is used to build roads, but you can also find it in nature.
From 40,000 years ago to 8,000 years ago, La Brea had huge tar pits. Animals would walk into the tar pits, but they couldn't get out. They would sink into the tar and die. The tar, however, would preserve their bodies. Later, as they were mining the tar, people discovered the animal bodies. Scientists have found over 59 kinds of land animals and 135 kinds of birds in the tar pits. These bodies are very useful to scientists because most of these animals disappeared thousands of years ago. For example, scientists have found the bodies of huge cats, saber tooth tigers, in the tar pits. These animals disappeared over ten thousand years ago. Scientists have learned a lot from the tar pits. They know much more about North America than before they found the tar pits. We now know that America had many large and dangerous animals such as the saber tooth tiger. However, most of these animals disappeared before humans arrived 15,000 years ago.