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

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers 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.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid