La Brea Tar Pits 2006

The photos were taken by Henry, write-ups by the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits Museum

Click the thumbnail photo to enlarge

Harlan's Ground Sloth (Glossotherium harlani)
This medium-sized ground sloth stood a little over six feet tall and weighed about 1500 pounds. Vegetarian. Ground sloths are primitive mammals related to the present-day armadillos and the small tree sloths of Central and South America.

Antique Bison (Bison antiquus)
The Antique Bison is the most common plant eater found at Rancho La Brea. This extinct bison had a larger body, greater shoulder hump and longer horns than the modern buffalo.

Asphalt and People
A display of the uses of tar/asphalt by the Native Americans.

A display of the various animals found in the tar pits.
Some of the bones found had signs of injuries even tooth fragments in the bones. Fused back vertebrae are relatively common bone disease in the Saber-tooth, and may have resulted from an injury.

The Dwarf Pronghorn
Similar to the modern pronghorn antelope of western North America but with a differently shaped horns. A reconstruction of the animal using similarities of modern antelopes.

California Saber-Tooth (Smilodon californicus)
The California Saber-tooth was a powerful and efficient hunting machine. Saber-tooths appear to have attacked young mammoths and mastodons. Unlike modern lions, the California Saber-tooths did not attach the neck of its prey because of the likelihood of breaking a saber tooth. Damaged sabers are rare in the tar pits so it seems likely that they used a different method. It is believed that they probably used their powerful forelimbs and weight to pull down its prey an attack the softer unprotected belly. Larger prey may have been left alone to bleed to death.

Various Invertebrates and Plants
Various invertebrates and plants are also found in the tar pits. Freshwater (lake) snails and clams may have been deposited in the tar pits by seasonal mountain water runoff or by local streams, or possibly dropped off by humans. Ocean related invertebrates are found in the layers beneath those where terrestial mammals were found indicating that the tar pits were originally formed when California was under water. About 100 insect species have been found which may have been feeding on the carcasses.

American Mastodon (Mammut americanum) and the Extinct Camel (Camelops hesternus)
The American Mastodon was the last survivor of a primitive group of animals that were ancestors of the elephant. This pair of female and six-year-old youngster were trapped together in the asphalt.

This extinct camel was the largest of the two types found at Rancho La Brea and larger than the modern dromedary camel.

Shasta Ground Sloth (Northrotheriops shastense)
This small ground sloth had a tubular-shaped snout and fewer teeth than the larger sloths.

The Columbian Mammoth
(Mammuthus columbi)

The Columbian Mammoth was the largest mammal to have been trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits. Some individuals stood over 13 feet tall. The mammoth migrated into North America from Asia about 2 million years ago. The Columbian Mammoth was larger, but less hairy, than the wooly mammoth which lived near the ice sheets in the northern end of the continent

Dire Wolf (Canis dirus)
The dire wolf was a very close relative of the timber wolf and may have hunted in packs of 3-20 animals. The dire wolf may have been able to bring down bison or camel.

American Lion
(Felis atrox)

The American lion was probably the most formidable predator of its time. It was larger than the Indian tiger, the African lion or the California Saber-tooth. Shown in this display one American lion and one California Saber-tooth.

California Saber-tooth (Smilodon californicus)
The California Saber-tooth probably ambushed the larger and slower animals such as ground sloths and young mammoths or mastodons. California Saber-tooth were first discovered in the 19th century in a Brazilian cave deposit and are known to have ranged throughout the western hemisphere.

Short-Faced Bear (Arctodus simus)
This extinct bear was larger than any of the present-day North American bears, a foot taller than the grizzly and about twice its weight.

Extinct Western Horse (Equus occidentalis)
Beginning with an ancestor only two feet tall, horses have increased in size and diversity throughout their long history. They migrated to Europe, Asia and Africa before becoming extinct in the New World.


The Paleontology Laboratory (fishbowl).
Volunteers and staff with several specialty areas prepare the fossils for storage in the permanent research collection.

Rancho La Brea Tar Pits
Early scientists recovered over one million fossils from the tar pits between 1906 and 1915. They collected only the larger bones and discarded the asphalt-soaked sediments in which they were imbedded. This material, called matrix, was later found to contain a wealth of small fossils such as seeds, snails, insects, and microscopic pollen.






6.8 mb movie file 4.3 mb movie file





Henry heads out to Indiana
Henry and John head out to the Southeast corner of Utah in 2006 and view four footprint sites
Fossils from Outside the US
Coming soon...
Henry's Tool Shed
Back to Homepage