UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
I have heard that the Tar Pits close to LA are a good place to find fossils. Are there also dinosaur fossils? Is it a fun place to visit?
Question Date: 2003-05-09
Answer 1:

No, there are no dino fossils in the LaBrea tar pits. Natural tar pits form when tar and other oil like gooey stuff oozes up from the source rocks that are buried a few kilometers in sedimentary rocks. These natural seeps were a place where animals of all sorts would hang out. The smaller ones would get stuck and then the big ones would come in to eat them and they would get stuck also. Because tar is so sticky and thick, the remains of these animals can be preserved . No oxygen can get in and make things rot (oxidize).

Anyway, the AGE of the tar pits is roughly a 100 hundred thousand years (100,000).

Look at this web site and you will find a HUGE amount of information
LaBrea tar pits

Answer 2:

It is a WAY COOL place to visit, but there are no dinosaur fossils. The tar pits date from somewhere around the Pleistocene Epoch in geologic history, during the last ice age, about 10,000 to 40,000 years ago. Dinosaurs died out at the end of the Cretacious Era - about 65 million years ago. The dinosaurs were long gone by the time the tar pits were a flourishing swamp area. The fossils you can find in the tar pits are early mammals - woolly mammoths, saber toothed cats, dire wolves, and eohippus (early horses).

But you should definitely plan a trip there - you can see the tar bubbling up from the ground, and there is a museum that tells you all about the history of the area and the types of animals that were alive at that time, and hence the types of fossils you find.

You can't collect any fossils yourself - there are people who collect and catalog them for the museum. But there is a window to their laboratory where you can see the scientists and their helpers working on the fossils, and there are places in the park around the museum where you can go down into the pits and look in, though you can't actually walk through the areas where they are digging.

The tar pits are actually in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. You can get information from the official website of the museum.

Answer 3:

There are no dinosaurs preserved in the La Brea Tar Pits because the last of the dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago , and the oldest bones preserved at La Brea are only 40,000 years old!

You can find many other animals that are now extinct, including saber-toothed cats and mammoths, and birds like Merriam's Teratorn and Grinnell's Eagle, in addition to bones of more familiar animals. These fossils are preserved remarkably well, and I think it is a wonderful place to visit!

Answer 4:

Yes, there are many fossils at the Tar Pits, though they can't be collected by the public. The displays are beautiful and definitely worth a visit. The fossils from there are less than 40,000 years old (mostly saber-tooth cats, elephants, sloths and other mammals). This deposit is far too young to contain the usual kinds of dinosaurs (T. rex etc.). Birds, of course, are a living kind of feathered dinosaur. Since birds are known from La Brea, in that sense one could say that there are dinosaurs too!

Answer 5:

I am to understand that they are fun to visit, but I have never actually been there myself. You will not find any dinosaur fossils because the La Brea tar pits are not that old. You can find fossils of animals that became extinct in the past few tens of thousand years, such as mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, etc.

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use