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Rancho La Brea Tar Pits

Rancho La Brea Tar Pits Fossils:

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Location: Los Angeles County, California

Time: 40,000 to 10,000 years ago, during the Quaternary period

About this Famous Find: The Rancho La Brea Tar Pits, near downtown Los Angeles, contain one of the richest, best preserved, and best studied assemblages of Pleistocene fossils ever found. The tar pit fossils are a window into life in southern California from 40,000 to 8,000 years ago.

We can tell by examining the plant fossils from La Brea that the climate in 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 today. Some of the other large animal species found at La Brea are no longer found in North America: native horses, camels, mammoths and mastodons, longhorned bison, and saber-toothed cats.

Today, the George C. Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries, right next door to the tar pits themselves, displays huge numbers of La Brea fossils. The Page Museum is part of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.


Museums (1 listing)

George C. Page Museum: Explore a virtual exhibit about the Tar Pits, learn about the animals and environments of California during the Quaternary, and find information on when, where, and how to visit the La Brea Tar Pits.

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Government Agencies (1 listing)

California Geological Survey: Find information, maps, and publications about the paleontology, geology, and natural resources of California.

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Education and Exhibits

Virtual Exhibits (2 listings)

Sabertooths!: This page by the UC Museum of Paleontology discusses saber-toothed carnivores. It offers details on examples from two different geological periods: Smilodon, from the Pleistocene-aged La Brea Tar Pits, and the Oligocene-aged Hoplophoneus.

Localities of the Pleistocene: The La Brea Tar Pits: This site offers a discussion and images of fossils from the La Brea Tar Pits.

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Physical Exhibits (1 listing)

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County: Largest natural history museum of California and parent organization for George Page Museum. Here, find information on when, where, and how to visit the LACM. Site includes information on the physical exhibits, virtual exhibits, and on-going research at the museum.

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