Discovery sheds new light on the day the dinosaurs die


Thescelosaurus moved secretly along the coast. A thick, muscular dinosaur about 12 feet long and weighing about 500 pounds was probably looking for food. Or I was trying not to eat.

Featuring prominent bone eyebrows and a pointed beak, Thescelosaurus moves along its legs with most of its body leaning forward while its long tail extends backwards for balance. rice field. Suddenly, the dinosaur raised his head and looked around, and was surprised to find that he was restless due to a series of nervous natural forces.

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The ground began to sway with violent vibrations as the water of the nearby sea moved around accordingly. The sky was full of burning embers, which ran down and set fire to the lush primeval forest.

Thescelosaurus panicked and tried to escape, but it was too late. Everything changed with a heartbeat as a wave of 30 feet of mud and debris ran up the sea from the south, sweeping life and limbs in the process. The dinosaur was caught in a devastating flood and its legs were torn at the waist by a catastrophic surge.

That moment (at the end of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago, when an Earth-destroying asteroid ended the reign of dinosaurs) was in time today with a spectacular fossil discovered last year at the Tanis excavation site in North Dakota. It is frozen. This fully preserved leg clearly shows the skin, muscles and bones of the three-fingered Thescelosaurus.

The details of the death scenarios above are decorated, but they are based on notable new discoveries and explanations by Tanis’ chief paleontologist Robert DePalma.

“I’m not 100% sure that this paw came from a dead animal that day,” the scientist said. “What we can do is determine if we may have died on the day the meteorite hits. Looking at the preservation of the legs and skin around the articulated bones, we are talking on or just before the day of the impact. It wasn’t a high degree of decline. “

DePalma and the legs of the dinosaurs will be featured in two consecutive episodes of PBS’s “Nova” on Wednesday, “Dinosaur Apocalypse: The New Evidence” and “Dinosaur Apocalypse: The Last Day.” Sir David Attenborough, a biologist and naturalist, will host a program co-produced with the BBC.

The legs and several other relics found on the North Dakota site are the first real fossils to show the death and destruction that occurred when a 10-mile-long space rock collided with the Yucatan Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico. .. This collision event, 66 million years ago, destined for dinosaurs and mass-extinct 75 percent of the flora and fauna on Earth.

At that time, the world was a much warmer place. There was no ice cap and the water level was high. The North American continent was divided into two by the Western Interior Seaway. Tanis is located on the edge of its huge river, which became the conduit for the genocide after the asteroids collided. A shock wave from about 3,000 miles away erupted the sea route with a spectacular tsunami.

As Depalma pointed out, Thescelosaurus never took a chance.

“You wouldn’t want to be there that day,” he said. “There was a turbulent wall of death towards the river. Moreover, all these shining globules have fallen from the sky. They are of overheated glass that re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere after being released from the Yucatan crater. It’s like beads. Then there was the shaking of all this earthquake. It was really hell on earth. “

The loss of dinosaurs, however, is in the interests of paleontologists. After Tanis was discovered in 2008, scientists probably began to notice the fossils created there at the moment of its great impact. A series of important discoveries have been made, including dinosaur legs, pterosaur embryos still in the shell, turtles pierced by lumps of wood, and well-preserved skin of triceratops. Many of these fossils are open to the public for the first time in a PBS documentary.

Perhaps the most obvious is the fossilized fish excavated there in 2019, which surprised many scientists. Among those petrified relics, researchers found the embedded evidence needed to substantiate the claim that animals died when an asteroid collided: rain from the sky on the day of fate. A glass ball known as an ejector that has fallen.

“They were the fish that died that day,” Depalma said. “We know that because they were ejected from the impact of the gills.”

Researchers have unearthed a myriad of samples of these glass spheres. All of these samples contain characteristic chemicals typical of major collision events. Molten glass, made of sand and other Earth’s materials, was released into the atmosphere by an explosion caused by an asteroid colliding with a planet. This is estimated to be equivalent to 10 billion atomic bombs. Within one of those circular fossils are small rock spots that may originate from the killer asteroid itself.

De Palma, a graduate researcher at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and an assistant professor of earth sciences at Florida Atlantic University, has been leading the work in Tanis since 2012. He and other scientists on the team have published several major papers explaining his findings and outlining scientific methodologies. Used to date fossils and other evidence.

DePalma claims that what happened at that time is directly related to today’s world.

“I was asked why we need to care about this. The dinosaurs have been dead for a long time,” he said. “This isn’t just for old nerds. It’s still true today. We see mass mortality of animals and biomes in extremely stressful situations around the world. See the past through this window. And you can apply these lessons until today. “

To produce the episode “Nova,” DeParma worked directly with one of his heroes, 96-year-old Atemborough, to review the findings and discuss their importance.

“Sir David and I interacted and talked about everything,” DeParma said. “It was a great experience. He can’t control his enthusiasm. When we look at fossils and talk about what they mean, you can separate us two. I couldn’t. If no one stopped us, I would have been there all day. “

The “Dinosaur Apocalypse” will air on PBS on Wednesday at 9 pm.

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