The Trouble with Tar: Collagen Preservation in Asphalt Impregnated Bones


  • Kendra Leishman University of British Columbia


The Rancho LaBrea (RLB) tar sand in Los Angeles California is known for its highly preserved megafauna.Researchers have been attempting collagen extraction on RLB faunal assemblages for over 50 years for the purpose of isotope and radiocarbon analyses. There has yet to be extensive research on the applications of Zoo-archaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) to these materials. This research fills this gap, as a pilot attempt of ZooMS analysis on LaBrea Tar Sand faunal material. The project aims to answer if ZooMS taxonomic identification is possible on RLB materials. Analysis will be conducted on bone samples which have had tar removed, as well as on untreated bones, aiming to assess the relationship between visible asphalt saturation and total MALDI-TOF spectra peaks. As DNA analysis is costly and has not yet seen success in RLB materials, this research could provide great additional insight to fauna populations of RLB, as well as tar saturated faunal assemblages around the world.