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Letters from America - August 30, 2001


By Dunfermline.info - Thu, 30th Aug 2001

Letter Issue 6
Localities of the Pleistocene:

When this photograph was taken around 1910 ...

The La Brea Tar Pits Southern California, location was depicted as 7 miles west of Los Angeles ...
Today, this spot is in the middle of downtown Los Angeles ...

Tar pits form when crude oil seeps to the surface through fissures in the Earth's crust;
the light fraction of the oil evaporates,
leaving behind the heavy tar, or asphalt, in sticky pools.

Tar from the La Brea tar pits was used for thousands of years by local native Americans,
as a glue and as waterproof caulking for baskets and canoes.

La Brea tar pits, containing one of the richest,
best preserved, and best studied assemblages of Pleistocene vertebrates,
including at least 59 species of mammal and over 135 species of bird.

The tar pit fossils bear eloquent witness
to life in Southern California from 40,000 to 8,000 years ago;
side from vertebrates, they include plants, mollusks, and insects
over 660 species of organisms in all.
Most of the bird fossils are also predators or scavengers, including vultures, condors, eagles, and giant, extinct, storklike birds known as teratorns.

Smilodon :
the most famous of the sabre-toothed cats,
is the second most common fossil at La Brea.

Literally hundreds of thousands of its bones have been found
representing thousands of individuals....

The the gray wolf fossil was originally described as the species Canis milleri, but restudy has shown that it is a subspecies of C. lupus, the gray wolf.

If a pack of carnivorous mammals were to chase a lone prey animal into the tar pits, both predators and prey would become trapped as this happened over a period of 30,000 years you can see why so many species show up today.

Cheers till next time Jim White jwhite6787@msn.com

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