Aisling B. Farrell
(323) 857-6300 ext 127
Check out the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum's new website, tarpits.org! Videos, photography, interactive components, downloadable resources and more!
The Rancho La Brea biota is one of the world's richest and most diverse late Pleistocene terrestrial assemblages. At the last census, in 1992, the collection exceeded 3.5 million specimens. The diversity of species (~ 600), the quality of preservation, and the large numbers of specimens makes this collection invaluable for the study and understanding of the end of the last Ice Age in North America. Rancho La Brea is perhaps best known for its extensive holdings of carnivorans, of which dire wolves (Canis dirus), saber-toothed cats (Smilodon fatalis), and coyotes (Canis latrans) predominate among the 60 plus species of mammals.
Asphalt is a superb preservative; small and delicate fossils, such as hollow bird bones or paper-thin exoskeletons of beetles are very well-preserved here. As a result, our collection of fossil birds is one of the world’s largest. Although earlier collectors focused on larger specimens, like saber-toothed cat skulls and ground sloth limb bones, the ongoing Pit 91 excavation was started with the specific goal of collecting the microfossils that early excavators passed over. Nearly all of the plants (160 species), invertebrates (205 species), fish (3 species), amphibians (5 species) and reptiles (24 species) are currently known only from Pit 91. Project 23, however, is also focusing on the recovery of all microfossils as well as the larger specimens, and thus far has produced some remarkable specimens, such as articulated millipedes and oak leaf layers. Both are new to the Rancho La Brea collections. This new project will give us environmental data from 16 separate deposits, with the potential to add new species to the Rancho La Brea faunal list.
Visit www.tarpits.org to learn about the collections of mammals, birds, plants, invertebrates, fish, amphibians and reptiles.
Some of the collections are available online at http://collections.nhm.org.