News / USA

Fossils at California Tar Pits Yield Possible Climate Change Clues

Fossils at California Tar Pits Yield Possible Climate Change Cluesi
X
October 30, 2013 2:20 AM
Creatures such as saber tooth cats once lived in what is now the second largest city in the United States. Their ancient remains are still being found at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California, 100 years after scientists first began their excavations. As Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles, scientists are now examining some of these fossils for clues about climate change.

Fossils at California Tar Pits Yield Possible Climate Change Clues

Elizabeth Lee
Creatures such as saber tooth cats once lived in what is now the second largest city in the United States.  Their ancient remains are still being found at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California, 100 years after scientists first began their excavations. Scientists are now examining some of these fossils for clues about climate change.

Video transcript:
 
In the heart of Los Angeles, surrounded by tall buildings and traffic, there are pools of black, bubbling tar.  Scientists come here to unearth some unconventional treasure buried under this tar. 
 
“I get excited about a mouse toe!” exclaims Shelley Cox.
 
Cox cleans fossils in a lab called the Fish Bowl.  It is located in the George C. Page Museum in Los Angeles, which houses fossils of animals and plants trapped and preserved by the tar at the La Brea Tar Pits.  Some of the remains date back more than 40-thousand years.
 
“We have such a variety of fossils that there is almost something for everyone preserved right here,” said Cox.
 
That’s 5.5 million fossils found in the last hundred years, and it’s why paleontologists from around the world come here to study the discoveries. Chief Curator John Harris says even saber tooth cats and mammoths were no match for the thick, sticky asphalt.
 
“They got stuck in asphalt, stuck like flies on fly paper.  If they were lucky, they succumbed to hunger and thirst after about a week. If they were unlucky, they were torn apart by wandering predators and scavengers.”
 
In the past, paleontologists focused on the large mammals, but the remains of smaller creatures such as snails or insects are now getting more attention. These microfossils give scientists a better picture of the ancient ecosystem.  They also tell scientists how organisms are affected by climate change.
 
Unlike the extinct large mammals, the descendants of these smaller creatures still exist but do not necessarily live in the same area as their ancestors.
 
“Well if we have some idea of how life changes when we have changes in climate, then we can take precautions when we’re actually undergoing those same climatic changes ourselves,” said Harris.
 
Scientists say the plants and animals preserved in tar can tell them how global warming in the past affected ancient organisms and can help them understand which species may be the most vulnerable as temperatures rise in the modern world.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
October 31, 2013 1:51 AM
I suppose the species most vulnerable to climate change are such lives as living on lands and in atmosphere. Lives living under ground and under water seems likely to survive fled from bad climate circumstances, eventhough could not overcome those living in tar ?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid