Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Harlie. Harlie Wonders, “How is tar made?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Harlie!

How would you like to take a trip back in time? What time would you visit? Ancient Greece? How about the Renaissance? How would you like to visit the Ice Age? Brrrrrr! That would be cold! However, you can take a trip back to the Ice Age without the chill. Just visit the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California!

“Brea” is the Spanish word for tar. The tar pits are areas where tar has seeped up from under the ground for over 40,000 years. They were once called “the Salt Creek oil fields” and sat a few miles outside of Los Angeles. But due to the city’s growth, the La Brea Tar Pits are now part of Hancock Park, right in the heart of Los Angeles.

Big pools of oil don’t sound all that exciting. So what’s so special about the La Brea Tar Pits? It’s actually what can be found within the tar pits that has amazed scientists for many years.

The tar in the pits gets very thick. Sometimes it doesn’t even look like tar, because it gets covered with dust, leaves, and water. Over the years, many animals have been fooled into thinking they’re on solid ground. Then, they end up getting stuck in tar.

Over hundreds and thousands of years, animals trapped in the tar have died and sunk into the tar. The tar preserved the bones of these animals very well. The tar also preserved all sorts of other fossils, including plants, insects, and seeds.

Since the early 1900s, scientists have searched over 100 pits to learn about the history of the area. They’ve found bones of large mammals that lived long, long ago. The oldest fossils found have been dated back 38,000 years!

So what animals roamed the Los Angeles area tens of thousands of years ago? People have found fossils of saber-toothed cats, mammoths, wolves, bears, ground sloths, bison, and horses there. They’ve also found many birds and smaller organisms. Overall, 660 species have been found in the tar pits!

The La Brea Tar Pits are now a registered National Natural Landmark. Would you like to see all the incredible fossils found there? Just pay a visit to LA’s Hancock Park. There, you can tour the remains uncovered from the tar pits. But be sure to watch your step. You don’t want to get stuck in the tar!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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