The Tar Pits… THEY LIVE

“Like many other visitors to the La Brea tar pits, sisters Samantha and Katie Salazar watched a basketball-sized bubble emerge from dark, slimy gunk Sunday and wondered, why are the tar pits bubbly?

“For years, educators at the Hancock Park site could only guess that methane gas was being released as the byproduct of oil creation 1,000 feet below the surface.

“Researchers at UC Riverside have finally found the answer: Hardy bacteria embedded in the natural asphalt are eating away at the petroleum and burping up methane.

“Of the bacteria the researchers isolated in tar pit samples, about 200 to 300 are previously unknown species.”
Researchers learn why tar pits are bubbly. (or here, if it’s behind the pay wall [sorry, LAT]) Newly discovered bacteria in natural asphalt are munching on the petroleum and burping up methane gas in Hancock Park. By Jia-Rui Chong, LA Times, May 14, 2007

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