This Dinosaur Documentary Reveals Amazing Discoveries

DINOSAURS – A real treasure. This is what paleontologists encountered at the Tanis fossil site in North Dakota in the US. Indeed, researchers have made many discoveries, from a herbivorous dinosaur leg that had skin on it, to a pterosaur (flying reptile) egg with a particularly well-preserved embryo. An adventure recounted in a new BBC documentary screened this Friday 15 April with renowned naturalist David Attenborough as narrator.

But that’s not all. Paleontologists argue that these discoveries could be dated back to 66 million years ago, the exact moment when the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs crashed. If there has not yet been a publication in a peer-reviewed journal, scientists are amazed by the discovery.

Tanis, fossil gold deposit

“The time accuracy we can achieve on this site is beyond our wildest dreams…,” Phillip Manning, professor of natural history at the University of Manchester, told BBC Radio 4. “I never dreamed in my entire career that I would have the opportunity to see something (…) so beautiful, and which also tells such a wonderful story,” he adds, illustrating the excitement associated with discoveries made at the field Tanis.

There are many fossils in excellent condition. First, it is the foot of a dinosaur, a small herbivore named Thescelosaurus from the ornithopod family. According to Paul Barrett, a dinosaur expert at the Natural History Museum in London, the leg, in perfect condition, was torn off quickly, with no signs of disease or predation.Telegraph.

Other remains found nearby include a fossilized turtle impaled on a wooden stake, small mammals in their burrows, skin belonging to a Triceratops, and a fossilized pterosaur embryo inside its egg. As for the latter, X-rays have shown that a pterosaur egg may have been buried by its mother in the sand, similar to how modern turtles bury their eggs, according to the BBC.

What all of these discoveries have in common is that they date from the end of the Cretaceous and, it would seem, were at the forefront of the beginning of the end. Indeed, the fossils found at Tanis contain many elements indicating that these animals may have been present at the asteroid impact that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs at Chicxulub in Mexico.

This has already been explained by a study published on April 1, 2019 in Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the result of a collaboration of eleven paleontologists.

Asteroid impact discoveries

The many aquatic and land creatures fossilized together at the site of Tanis seem to indicate that they must have died during the meteorite impact.

Indeed, fragments were found on the whole leg mentioned above, as well as on an ancient fish. Most likely, these are tiny pieces of molten rock, similar to shards of glass, raised by an asteroid, stuck in the gills of a petrified fish.

These fragments, also called balls, have been linked to the site of the asteroid impact in the Mexican Peninsula through radiometric dating (the most famous of which is carbon-14). This gives an idea of ​​the shock, as the meteorite fell about 3,000 km from where North Dakota is now. Here is a video illustrating this cataclysm:

In addition, it would seem that pieces of an asteroid were found. Indeed, fragments were found in amber, and upon analysis, researchers found that they contained iron, chromium and nickel, a compound found in asteroids.

In front of all these elements admires paleontologist Robert DePlama (a researcher from the University of Manchester who is leading excavation projects at the site of Tanis). “We have so many details (…). You look at the stone pillar, you look at the fossils there, and it brings you back to the present day,” he explains to the BBC.

The need for further

If these discoveries hit more than one person, some paleontologists are calling for action. Indeed, the Tanis finds “have not yet been confirmed beyond reasonable doubt in the peer-reviewed literature,” paleontologist Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh tells the BBC.

The researcher adds, however, that this is an “interesting” study, given the fact that notables in the discipline such as Walter Alvarez (the father in 1980 of the idea that an asteroid caused the mass extinction) were associated with the study. .

“For some of these finds, does it matter if these animals died on the day of impact or in previous years?” Finally, Steve Brusatte asks the question, adding that “A pterosaur egg with a pterosaur inside is extremely rare; there is nothing like it in North America.”

See also HuffPost: This flying reptile is the largest ever discovered in the Jurassic.

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