Dinosaur Fossil From Daytime Extinction Asteroid Hit Earth, Scientists Say

  • Several incredibly well-preserved dinosaur fossils have been discovered at Tanis, a site in North Dakota.
  • Scientists believe the dinosaurs died the day a giant asteroid hit Earth 66 million years ago.
  • The findings are the work of paleontologist Robert DePalma, who has previously sparked controversy.

Scientists claim to have found a dinosaur fossil killed the day an extinct asteroid hit Earth 66 million years ago.

Scientists say the perfectly preserved leg of a Thescelosaurus dinosaur, with scaly skin, can be dated to the mass extinction event due to the presence of debris from the impact, the BBC said.

It’s widely believed that when the 7.5-mile-wide asteroid, roughly the size of Mount Everest, hit the Gulf of Mexico, all non-avian dinosaurs on earth were wiped out.

An upcoming BBC documentary examines a slew of fossils found at the Tanis site in North Dakota. It includes Thescelosaurus leg, seen in a video here, and the skin of a triceratops, pictured above.

Sir David Attenborough looks at fossilized Triceratops skin through a mirror

Sir David Attenborough will narrate the upcoming BBC documentary.

BBC Studios/Jon Sayer


The site is rich in well-preserved fossils, including fish, a turtle and even the embryo of a flying pterosaur encased in an egg.

Scientists believe tiny, glass-like particles of molten rock lodged in the gills of fish fossils found at the site were thrown up by the explosive impact of the asteroid, the BBC said.

fragments of the meteorite impact can be seen encased in dirt.

The spherules are visible in the sediments.

BBC Studios/Ali Parès


“We have so many details with this site that tell us what happened in every moment. It’s almost like watching it in the movies,” said Robert DePalma, a graduate student from the University of Manchester. , in the United Kingdom, who runs the Tanis. dig, told the BBC.

Prof. Phil Manning, Ph.D. of DePalma. supervisor in Manchester, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the discovery was “absolutely bonkers” and something he “never dreamed of in my whole career”.

“The temporal resolution we can achieve at this site is beyond our wildest dreams. It really shouldn’t exist, and it’s absolutely stunning,” Manning said.

The documentary, which David Attenborough presents, was shot over three years and will be released on April 15.

A discovery so “fabulous” that it has aroused skepticism

In the BBC documentary, Robert DePalma, a relative of director Brian De Palma, can be seen sporting an Indiana Jones-style fedora and beige shirt.

He named the paleontological site “Tanis,” the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant in the 1981 film “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” according to The New Yorker.

Tanis’ findings and DePalma’s work have generated controversy over the years.

Robert de Palma, leader of the expedition.

Tanis dig leader Robert DePalma speaks with a colleague.

BBC / Tom Traies


The New Yorker first wrote about Tanis’ site in 2019 before presenting the findings in an academic journal.

While paleontologists generally cede their rights and the preservation of fossils to institutions, DePalma, who had collected few academic laurels until the discovery of the site, insists on contractual clauses that give him control over the specimens. He controlled how the fossils are presented, according to The New Yorker.

In response to the article, Kate Wong, Science Editor of Scientific American, said in a 2019 tweet that the site’s findings “have been met with much skepticism from the paleontological community”.

A few peer-reviewed papers have since been published, and the BBC said the dig team promised more.

The BBC also said it called in outside consultants to check the specimens.

Professor Paul Barrett of the Natural History Museum in London examined the leg and said it was a Thescelosaurus which probably died “more or less instantly”.

“He comes from a group of which we had no previous record of the appearance of his skin, and this shows very conclusively that these animals were very scaly like lizards. They had no feathers like their contemporaries. carnivores,” Barrett said. the BBC.

However, Professor Steve Brusatte, an outside consultant on the documentary from the University of Edinburgh, told the BBC he was skeptical of the dinosaur findings at this time and would like to see the hypotheses put to the test. the scrutiny of a peer review.

“Those fish with spherules in their gills, they’re an absolute calling card for the asteroid. But for some of the other claims, I’d say they have a lot of circumstantial evidence that hasn’t been presented to the jury yet. ,” he said.

Professor Brusatte said it is possible that some of the animals died before the asteroid impact but could have been exhumed and then reburied by the impact.

But ultimately, Brussate said the quality of the fossils outweighed the controversy over the timing of the event.

“For some of these finds, however, does it even matter whether they died the day before or in previous years? The pterosaur egg with a pterosaur baby inside is extremely rare; there is no nothing else like it in North America. must be about the asteroid.”

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