What is a Tar Pit?

Hey Defender! If you've ever seen a dinosaur movie, or perhaps live around here in Southern California you might have heard of tar pits - especially the La Brea tar pits! But what exactly is a tar pit? Well, to use a better name, tar pits should accurately be called "asphalt pits", or even an asphalt lake, as asphalt is the main component. Asphalt is a black and sticky liquid or semi solid petroleum. We all should know about asphalt, as it makes up the roads and driveways in our cities and towns!  Tar itself can come from wood, petroleum, peat, or coal, so in the case of a tar pit it is the petroleum version. The way a "tar pit" forms is when the oil starts to seep up to the surface through the Earth's crust. The lighter part evaporates, so all that is left is the heavy sticky asphalt. Tar pits have provided a wide variety of animal skeletons and specimens especially from prehistoric times, as most animals could not escape if they fell into a tar pit. The bones are preserved in the tar pit, and then we excavate them to learn even more about creatures from a time before ours! There have even been LIVING microorganisms found in tar pits, helping scientists study bacteria and different living conditions that most organisms can't survive in. All across the globe there are tar pits, we have found over a million fossils searching in these sticky places!

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Animal of the Week

Keep Exploring Defenders!