The Le Brea Tar Pit of Good Intentions

For tens of thousands of years, oil seepage from the earth created craters of pitch in urban Los Angeles, known as the Le Brea Tar Pits. The tar formed a deposit thick enough to trap unsuspecting animals that wandered in, became trapped, and eventually died. Predators ventured in to eat the ensnared animals and found themselves stuck, too. Over many centuries, the Le Brea Tar Pits have trapped and preserved the remains of animals that once roamed the earth with pride and distinction—the victims of Mother Nature, other marauders, and their own bad judgment.

Many of the remains in the tar pits are those of giant sloths—elephant-sized mammals that moved so slowly they provided the habitat to other ...

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