Have you figured it out yet? No? Here are some clues: they're littered in numerous sites throughout the state, more than 2,000 have been found in fact, and the creatures have some pretty sharp teeth. Need more help? “Rescue Me” star Denis Leary provided the voice for a character that is the same animal as the Cali fossil bearer in two popular CGI films.
If you guessed saber-toothed cat, congratulations goes out to you. And while the likelihood of seeing Mr. Leary at the excavation site off Wilshire Boulevard is 50/50, you can see remnants of his voiced character and many other frozen compatriots at the Page Museum's La Brea Tar Pits. Currently the Museum is presenting the Pit 91 Ice Age Paleontological Dig, an annual quarry for all ice aged fossils.
From an observation area, onlookers will be able to witness paleontologists in action recovering fossils from the pit. Animals such as the dire wolf and ground sloth are just some of the creatures that have remained stuck in the black tar. The trip continues as visitors venture through glass protected areas of the pit to see workers in the Paleontology Laboratory where fossil bones are cleaned, identified and stored.
For the smaller more fragile specimens, ultrasonic tanks are used for cleaning. High-frequency sound waves enable asphalt and sand to be carefully removed from the fragments. Larger bones are cleaned by hand using dental tools and solvents.
Paleontology-philes longing to not be restrained behind the glass, can satisfy their itch at a chance to get a first-hand look at the exhibit by volunteering in the museum's fossil laboratory. After a minimum of 96 hours of service, a volunteer is promoted to “semi-paleontologist” and can then participate in the annual excavation of Pit 91.
If you can't be a volunteer just yet because maybe you're a bit too young or have had a general fear of tar all your life, there is still some interactive fun to be had. A museum isn't a museum without some interactivity.
Sure looking at exhibits about the animal life that lived around the Los Angeles Basin 28,000 years ago is intriguing and all but just imagine the minutes or even hours you can spend at the Page Museum's special tank that recreates how our icy friends got stuck … literally. Impress museum patrons or that special friend of yours as you try with all of your strength to pull out a leg fossil – a prehistoric Sword of the Stone, if you will – out of the sticky solution.
Is touching a massive leg bone of a giant ground sloth on your list of things to do before you go extinct? Consider that item to be checked off after a visit to this exhibit. So, what are you waiting for? GET UP AND GET OUT!
Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits is located at 5801 Wilshire Blvd., in Los Angeles. Admission to the museum is $7; $4.50 for students with ID; Admission to the Pit 91 Excavation Station is free Wed-Sun, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, call (323) 934-7243 or visit www.tarpits.org.