Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gooey Ducks

I've been to Los Angeles only a couple of times, once for a conference and then just passing through. Let's just say I wasn't impressed and have no particular desire to return. Well, actually, I a swallowed the cost of a pre-paid hotel night in order to get out of there.  But I did get to visit two interesting places during my longer stay: Will Roger's home in Santa Monica and the La Brea Tar Pits.

Will Roger's home is simple and pleasant and one has to smile at the fact that his stables were way larger than their house.  The flowers in front were full of hummingbirds, and the air smelled faintly of eucalyptus.  La Brea was fascinating - most of us don't have to put cones out to warn that tar is seeping up through our front yard in spots - but I'd be disinclined to live in the area if only because the air reeks of tar.(And it's in Los Angeles, which in turn is in California, which I wouldn't live in if you paid me.)

The tar pits have popped back up in the news again due to their proximity to a recent pretty cool discovery.  During test excavations for a new subway station across the street a treasure trove of fossils from different eras than that of the neighboring tar pits was discovered.  The tar pit fossils range from about 10,000 to 45,000 years old:  this new deposit is ranging from about 50,000 to 300,000 years old, with an intriguing 2,000,000 year old sea lion fossil in a rock mixed in just to make things even more interesting.  The finds include starfish, snails, small clams, and the not-so-small geoduck ("gooey duck"), which I think I first heard of courtesy of a "Dirty Jobs" episode.  Personally, I prefer steaming littlenecks, but there you go....

Why is this interesting to anybody but us fossil geeks? Well, I wonder if people will process a bit of information this presents.

A quick trip to Google Earth and some rough measurements with the appropriate app:

That yellow line that I ran from the tar pits to the coast is nearly 9 miles long.  So let's step through this:  there's a large deposit of sea creature remains across the street from the pits.  Which means that the sea level was once high enough to cover that area and it did so long enough to create a thriving, life-filled environment.  Gasp!  But but but..."This was the moment the rise of the oceans began to slow and the earth began to heal" ... but but but ... these fossils show that the sea level dropped considerably in this area thousands of years before Obama was born in Kenya (oops, sorry) ... that sea level change is normal ... and that the Chicken Littles need to stop babbling about sea level change.  Because, like the climate, the sea level has been changing for upwards of 4 billion years and will continue to do so.

Some more info about the find here and here.  One of the scientists interviewed mentions that the sea once extended well into Arizona.  I wonder if anyone will put 2 and 2 together and get 4 or whether Common Core math will prevail.

And I notice that yesterday's little 4.4. shaker in L.A. has got people wondering about fracking.  Because Los Angeles normally doesn't get earthquakes...


  1. Now that I'm done chuckling, I should mention that there are fossilized palm trees in the tidal flats along Anchorage's water front. Yes, here in Alaska ... so clearly the earth is warming. :)

  2. Now PH... You 'know' those 'facts' are gonna get you on another list... sigh... :-)

  3. @Rev, NFO, Rick - The only thing that doesn't change where this planet is concerned is that things change.

  4. You think that's interesting? I've found sea fossils in the rocks at my former home. In Grand Canyon, AZ. Think on that one for a bit.

    1. Yep. Most of my fossil hunting has been in the Appalachians, where you can find deposits that indicate thriving communities of clams, brachiopods, crinoids, and sea snails.