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Tar pit

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Title: Tar pit  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Tar pit (disambiguation), Bart Gets an Elephant, Predator trap, Lake Bermudez, La Brea
Collection: Asphalt Lakes, Petroleum Geology, Sedimentology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Tar pit

Tierra La Brea, Trinidad

A tar pit, or more accurately known as an asphalt pit or asphalt lake, is a type of petroleum seep where subterranean bitumen leaks to the surface, creating a large area of natural asphalt.[1] This happens because, after the material reaches the surface, its lighter components vaporize, leaving only the thick asphalt.[2]


  • Known tar pits 1
  • Paleontological significance 2
  • Living organisms 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5

Known tar pits

La Brea Tar Pits, California

There are only a few known large asphalt lakes worldwide:

Paleontological significance

Animals are usually unable to escape from the asphalt when they fall in, making these pits excellent locations to excavate bones of prehistoric animals. The tar pits can trap animals because the asphalt that seeps up from underground forms a bitumen pit so thick that even mammoths found it impossible to free themselves before they died of starvation, exhaustion from trying to escape, or from exposure to the sun's heat. Over one million fossils have been found in tar pits around the globe.[2]

For other rich deposits, fossilized where they occurred, see Lagerstätten.

Living organisms

Living methane coming out of the tar pits.[3]

Other microorganisms have been found living in microliter-sized droplets of water recovered from Pitch Lake in Trinidad, including bacteria from the orders Burkholderiales and Enterobacteriales. [4]

Helaeomyia petrolei, the petroleum fly, spends its larval stage within the tar pit itself.

See also


  1. ^ "A gravity investigation of the Pitch Lake of Trinidad and Tobago". Geological Society of Trinidad and Tobago. Archived from the original on January 31, 2010. Retrieved August 28, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Perkins, Sid. "South America's sticky tar pits". Science News For Kids. Retrieved May 5, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Bubble, bubble, oil and...bacteria!". Science Buzz. May 31, 2007. Retrieved May 4, 2012. 
  4. ^ Madhusoodanan, Jyoti (August 8, 2014). "Microbes in a Tar Pit".  

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