La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

Teratorn Beak

An exciting large bird skull element was found in Box 14 recently!  This is Project 23’s first beak from the extinct predatory bird Teratornis merriami.  With a wingspan of 12 ft and weighing possibly 32 lbs, Merriam’s Teratorn is the largest bird found at Rancho La Brea and ranks among the largest known flying birds.

Glopping in Pit 91 today!

It's time to glop! We were back in Pit 91 last week to remove the continually seeping liquid asphalt.

Box 14 Bison Level 6

Work continues on in Box 14, and some of the bison bones in the center of the deposit are in process of removal.  This image shows: a tibia (1) that was removed Saturday, a scapula (2) that is broken in place, and a left metacarpal (3) located below the scapula.

A male turkey tarsometatarsus

Fresh out of the ground in Box 14, and just in time for Thanksgiving, we found the upper part of a right tarsometatarsus (lower leg bone) of an extinct California turkey, Meleagris californicus.  Only male turkeys have the spur that protrudes from the rear of this bone, making it a quick and easy way to identify the sex of the individual. Male turkeys use the spur in a kicking motion to help fend off predators.

Juvenile horse mandible

Now that SVP is over, we are back to digging in Box 14.  One significant discovery from the past couple days is this fragment of a juvenile horse mandible.  We recovered another fragment of a very young horse mandible in Box 14 last January in an adjacent grid and it is most likely that they are from the same individual.  So far in Box 14 we have juvenile representatives of mastodon, camel, dwarf pronghorn, dire wolf and horse.

SVP Preparation

We have been busy lately preparing for visitors to our museum from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology's Annual Meeting that is happening next week in Los Angeles.  Shown here, the Page Museum Research and Collections staff works on a new lineup of skulls in the lab, and volunteer Bethany glops in Pit 91.

Pit Wear in Box 13

The saber-toothed cat femur on the left is currently being excavated in Box 13.  The damage to its surface is not from a scavenger but is called "pit wear."  The large grooves on the surface of this bone formed when it moved against other bones within the asphalt seep. The cause of the movement is uncertain but could conceivably represent migration of the asphalt within the seep, trampling from other animals that were caught in the seep, or the result of earthquake activity.

Millipede Legs

This is an image of a section of millipede that was excavated in box 1 from hard asphaltic sandy matrix.  Upon close inspection, some of its tiny legs are still attached to its body and may even be complete (see lower section of image).

Box 1 Plant and Insect

These are some nice specimens that we have discovered in box 1 excavation recently:

1. seed

2. plant and twig mass

3. impression of small beetle (top) and millipede (bottom)

4. beetle elytra with purple pigment, as seen when first exposed.  The color fades in a few minutes when exposed to air.

Box 1 Branch

This is one of many well preserved Pleistocene branches being cleaned in the Fishbowl Lab at the moment. The wood almost looks modern but was excavated from among bones that are ~35,000 years old.