Category: fossils

Ep 151: The tar pit tar pits

Ep 151: The tar pit tar pits

The tar pit tar pits

In the previous episode we talked about where the oil that formed them came from. Today, we talk about the fossils found in them. Located in the middle of a major city, the La Brea Tar Pits have given up fossils as much as 55-thousand years old.

Here’s a link to a 5-minute video that shows how material is processed from the tarpits, including the large bones and microfossils.

Behind the Scenes at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

Here’s a link to the Page museum, where fossils and reconstructions from the tarpits are on display.

La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

Ep 150: Fossils in fossil fuel

Ep 150: Fossils in fossil fuel

Fossils in fossil fuel

Around the same time that the ancestors of humans branched from the apes, organic sediments were being laid down that would eventually turn into oil. Some of this oil worked its way along fault lines, and began seeping out of the ground at the surface. Located in L.A. these tar pits would capture animals, preserving their bones for the descendants of those early apes to puzzle over.

Here’s a link to an article about the down side to building a city over an oil deposit that is seeping out of the earth.

The Fiery Underground Oil Pit Eating L.A.

Here’s a 13-minute video about the 1989 explosion, caused by methane gas from the oil deposits under the city.


Ep149: Shadows in the stone

Ep149: Shadows in the stone

Shadows in the stone

The Burgess Shale is a deposited of shale that was formed from large underwater avalanches that berried organisms around a half-billion years ago, preserving the soft parts of the bodies. However, the fossils have been squeezed down to a thin layer of carbon, leaving shadows of what the creatures once were.

Here are a couple of links to more information about the Burgess Shale.

Smithsonian Institution Burgess Shale Home Page

The Burgess Shale – Royal Ontario Museum

Here’s a link to an episode about the Cambrian explosion.

Ep 77: The Cambrian explosion

Ep 148: Learning the most from the least

Ep 148: Learning the most from the least

Learning the most from the least

Not all fossils are large bones of things like dinosaurs or mammoths. Some of them are small enough to require a microscope in order to identify them. Called microfossils, these tiny fragments, and even remains of single-celled organisms, can tell us a good deal about things like the climate, the vegetation, the temperature, and chemical composition of the water and air when a given layer or strata of rock was laid down.

Here’s a link to an article about using microfossils to solve the mystery of what killed the last of the mammoths.

The last woolly mammoths in North America didn’t starve – they died of thirst

Here’s an article that talks about the use of microfossils for finding oil deposits.


And here are some articles about a few different types of microfossils.



Calcareous Nannofossils


Ep 147: Digging up the past

Ep 147: Digging up the past

Digging up the past

When I was a child, my family visit a dig site. They were excavating fossils of mammoths. Before we get back to examining natural history, we’ll spend a few episodes finding out where the evidence for the story comes from.

Here is a link to the hot springs mammoth site.

Mammoth Site & Museum

Here are some other sites that were discovered accidentally.

A 130,000-Year-Old Mastodon Threatens to Upend Human History

Mammoth Discovery Could Revise Earliest Date of Humans in the Americas