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Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

Natural Oil & Gas Seeps in California

The World Famous La Brea Tar Pits

The Rancho La Brea Tar Pits is one of the world's most famous fossil localities, located 5 miles west of downtown Los Angeles. Near the end of the Ice Age—about 40,000 to 10,000 years ago—saber-toothed cats, Columbian mammoths, American mastodons, and dire wolves roamed the Los Angeles Basin. Some of these animals, along with countless other animals and plants, became mired in pools of natural tar, or asphalt—a tragic ending for many prehistoric creatures, but a boon for today's paleontologists studying the Ice Age.

Learn more about the La Brea Tar Pits by visiting these excellent web sites:

Photo of cliff-side oil seep; see caption at left.

This 1907 U.S. Geological Survey drawing shows how oil from underground rock layers migrates upward to fill the La Brea pits.

Drawing from "Rancho La Brea, A Record of Pleistocene Life in California"


California Oil and Gas Seeps Home

The “Natural Oil and Gas Seeps in California” project is a collaborative between the USGS and the California Department of Conservation

See also:

Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program

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Page Last Modified: 10 July 2012 (lzt)