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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs