- Unidentified Bone – Most Likely Bird
- Pleistocene Age
- Rancho La Brea Tar Pits
- Los Angeles, California
- This specimen measures approx. 1 3/4″ long and will come in the 3.25″ x 4.25″ Riker Mount with Label as shown.
Tar pits are composed of heavy oil fractions called gilsonite, which seeped from the Earth as oil. In Hancock Park, crude oil seeps up along the 6th Street Fault from the Salt Lake Oil Field, which underlies much of the Fairfax District north of the park. The oil reaches the surface and forms pools at several locations in the park, becoming asphalt as the lighter fractions of the petroleum biodegrade or evaporate. This seepage has been happening for tens of thousands of years. From time to time, the asphalt would form a deposit thick enough to trap animals, and the surface would be covered with layers of water, dust, or leaves. Animals would wander in, become trapped, and eventually die. Predators would enter to eat the trapped animals and also become stuck. As the bones of dead animals sink into the asphalt, it soaks into them, turning them a dark-brown or black color. Lighter fractions of petroleum evaporate from the asphalt, leaving a more solid substance, which encases the bones. Dramatic fossils of large mammals have been extricated from the tar, but the asphalt also preserves microfossils: wood and plant remnants, rodent bones, insects, mollusks, dust, seeds, leaves, and even pollen grains. Examples of some of these are on display in the George C Page museum. Tar pits around the world are unusual in accumulating more predators than prey. The reason for this is unknown, but one theory is that a large prey animal would die or become stuck in a tar pit, attracting predators across long distances. This predator trap would catch predators along with their prey. Another theory is that dire wolves and their prey may have been trapped during a hunt. Since modern wolves hunt in packs, each prey animal could take several wolves with it.