May 24, 2022

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Part of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs may have been found in amber

Part of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs may have been found in amber

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A small portion of the asteroid that struck Earth 66 million years ago may have been found covered in amber – a finding that NASA called “amazing.”

It is one of many astonishing discoveries at a unique fossil site in Hell Creek Formation in North Dakota that has preserved the remains of the catastrophic moment that ended the age of the dinosaurs – a turning point in the planet’s history.

fossils Discovered there include fish that sucked in explosive debris during The hit, a tortoise impaled with a stick and a leg, probably belonged to a dinosaur that witnessed the asteroid collision.

The story of the discoveries is revealed in a new documentary titled “Dinosaur apocalypse” Featuring naturalist Sir David Attenborough and paleontologist Robert De Palma, it airs Wednesdays on PBS Nova.

DePalma, a graduate researcher at the University of Manchester in the UK and assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Florida Atlantic University, first began working on Tanis, as the fossil site is known, in 2012.

The exposed and dusty plains contrast starkly With What the site would have looked like at the end of the Cretaceous period. At that time, the American Midwest It was a swampy rainforest, and an inland sea that has since disappeared—known as the Western Inland Seaway—runs all the way from what is now the Gulf of Mexico to Canada.

Tanis is more than 2,000 miles from the Chicxulub impact crater left by the asteroid that struck off the coast of Mexico, but initial discoveries made at the site convinced de Palma that it provided rare evidence of what led to the end of the age of the dinosaurs.

The Tanis Fossil site in North Dakota was a swampy rainforest 66 million years ago.

The site is home to thousands of well-preserved fish fossils that de Palma believes were buried alive by sediment displaced when a huge mass of water released by the asteroid strike moved over the Inland Seaway. Unlike a tsunami, which can take hours to reach land after an earthquake at sea, these moving bodies of water, known as an earthquake, rose immediately after the massive asteroid crashed into the sea.

He’s sure the fish died within an hour of the asteroid impact, not the result of massive wildfires or the nuclear winter that came in the days and months that followed. That’s because “shocking balls” – tiny bits of molten rock that were thrown from the crater into space where it crystallized into a glass-like substance – were found in the fish’s gills. The analysis of fish fossils also revealed the asteroid hit in the spring.

Piece by piece of evidence began to pile up and change the story. De Palma said.

“It gives a real-time story of what happens right after the impact and you end up having such a rich resource for scientific research.”

Many of the recent discoveries revealed in the documentary have not been published in scientific journals.

Michael Benton, Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology at the University of Bristol, who served as scientific advisor to the documentary, said that while it was a “matter of convention” new scientific claims must be subject to peer review before being revealed on television, several other paleontologists have acknowledged that the fossil site represents Truly the “last day” of the dinosaurs.

“Some experts said ‘well, it might be the next day or a month ago…but I prefer the simpler explanation, which is that it really documents the day the asteroid hit Mexico,’” he said via email.

A tip belonging to Thescelosaurus, a small plant-eating dinosaur, was excavated from the Tanis fossil site in North Dakota.  The creature may have witnessed the asteroid that ended the age of the dinosaurs.

most glass The effect of the balls that first revealed fingerprints The asteroid impact on DePalma has been preserved as a mud as a result of geological processes over millions of years. However, DePalma and his collaborators also found some pellets that fell in tree resin to the surface of a tree trunk on that fateful day and were preserved in amber.

“In that amber, we identified a number of balls that were basically frozen over time, because, just like a perfectly preserved amber bug, when these amber balls got in, the water couldn’t get to them. They never resorted to mud, and they are perfectly preserved.”

It’s “like getting a sample vial, going back in time and getting a sample from an impact site and then saving it for science,” DePalma She said.

They were able to locate a number of small, unmolten rock fragments inside the glass spheres. Most of these tiny rock fragments are rich in calcium — likely from the limestone beneath the Yucatan Peninsula, de Palma said.

Shown here is amber with a possible piece of the asteroid inside.

“But two of those were very different in composition. You had spikes in chromium, nickel and some other elements that are only common in meteorites and those fragments based on our initial analysis… are almost certainly of cosmic origin.”

DePalma said they hope to be able to confirm where the asteroid might come from and where it might be — efforts that have caught the attention of NASA; de Palma present results Last month at the agency Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

said Jim Garvin, chief scientist at Goddard, who has studied the impact of craters on Earth and Mars.

Searching for buried amber spherules have not been published in a refereed journal. During peer review, scientists give rigorous notes about each other’s work to ensure it stands up to scrutiny. DePalma said to peer review A paper on the preliminary results will be published “in the coming months”.

An exceptionally preserved dinosaur leg with patchy skin is another discovery from the Tanis site that was featured in the documentary, which first aired in the UK in April, and has racked up the limelight in the paleontologist.

The fossil of the leg of Thescelosaurus after it was excavated.

Very few fossils from the Cretaceous period have been found in the upper rocks of the geological record, and it is possible that the tip — which belonged to Thescelosaurus, a small plant-eating dinosaur discovered by DePalma and his colleagues — would have died on the same day the asteroid impacted. Preservation of soft tissues such as skin indicates that her body did not have any time to decompose before it was buried in the sediment.

“The only two scenarios supported here are that he died during the surge or that he died just before (the asteroid strike) but too close in time that he didn’t really have time to disintegrate. That’s not something that died years ago and then reworked. This doesn’t happen with the soft tissues of like that.”

Detailed analysis of dinosaur leg bones can shed light on conditions before the impact.

The egg of a pterosaur discovered in Tanis is the only one found in North America.

Other fascinating finds from the site include a fossilized pterosaur egg, the first egg found in North America. It appears that the eggs of the giant flying reptiles were as soft as the eggs of many reptiles today. A petrified turtle with a wooden stick across its body is evidence that the creature was impaled during the wave of water released by the asteroid impact.

Not only does the work done at Tanis bring to light the astonishing details of what happened on the day the asteroid hit, it also provides great insight into In an event that caused a mass extinction and how that extinction occurred later. DePalma hopes this provides a framework for thinking about today’s climate crisis.

“The fossil record gives us a window into the details of the global threat and the reaction of living organisms on Earth to that threat,” de Palma said. “It gives us…a crystal ball that looks back in time and enables us to apply that to today’s ecological and ecological crisis.”

“This is amazing, but it is also beneficial for us. Because by studying this impact event in more detail, we can be better prepared to take care of our world now.”

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