Preserving the unique history of the La Brea Tar Pits

Visitors take in the prehistoric spectacle at the La Brea museum.

(CNN)Black gooey methane bubbles pop on the surface of the Lake Pit outside the La Brea Museum in Los Angeles. It's the only warning of the sticky, heavy asphalt on the bottom of the pit. The asphalt seeps have been there for thousands of years, stemming from a nearby underground large petroleum reservoir called Salt Lake Oil Field.

Thousands of years ago, the liquid asphalt trapped unsuspecting mammoths, horses, giant ground sloths, camels and bison that roamed the area, thirsty for a drink. Only 1.5 inches of the asphalt was required to trap a creature as massive as a mammoth or bison.
Predatory carnivores saw the stuck animals as the perfect way to get a meal. Dire wolves, saber-toothed cats and lions would creep up on their trapped prey but they too would become stuck in the liquid asphalt.
It was a slow death by starvation. They decayed on the surface and became buried by the asphalt and sediment over time.