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EARTH Magazine: CSI La Brea -- Tiny traces reveal big secrets of the tar pits

Alexandria, VA Saber-tooth tigers, dire wolves and woolly mammoths conjure up images of a past when large beasts struggled against the elements, each other, and even against humans for survival. Thousands of these creatures met their demise in the muck of the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, where they slowly sank into the tar and were fossilized. Now, scientists are using traces from hungry, bone-eating insects on these fossils to investigate how long it took for the giant beasts to be swallowed up by the sticky, oozy substance.

Using similar entomology techniques employed by crime scene investigators, scientists were able to determine which hungry bugs feasted on trapped megafauna in tar pits, and just how long the bodies sat exposed in the tar before becoming completely submerged. To read more about this groundbreaking research on the tar pits using insect traces visit:

The November issue of EARTH Magazine has much more to offer on the digital bookstand, including exploring the great heights of Mount Everest; flowing ice-age deepwater, and lighting unexpected places with organic solar cells.


Contact: Megan Sever
American Geosciences Institute

Page: 1

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