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Dinosaur Fossil Found Was Struck By Asteroid

Dinosaur asteroid
Skin is still attached to the dinosaur’s leg. Credit: BBC/University of Manchester

A stunningly preserved leg of a dinosaur found at the Tanis fossil site in North Dakota in the US is believed to be linked to the catastrophic asteroid event that wiped out the species 66 million years ago.

Scientists say that the leg which has skin still attached to it offers more insight into what happened when the dinosaur’s reign ended.

The BBC reports very few dinosaur remains have been found in rocks that record even the final few thousand years before they were wiped out, so these Tanis finds are something very special.

The BBC has spent the past three years filming at the Tanis site for a project with documentarian Sir David Attenborough.

Dinosaurs and other creatures found the moment the asteroid struck

Many of the specimens will be shown for the first time. Other specimens of well-preserved creatures from the moment the asteroid struck include a fish that breathed in impact debris, a turtle that was skewered by a wooden stake, skin from a horned triceratops, and the embryo of a flying pterosaur still inside its egg.

While the main impact site of the 12km-wide asteroid is believed to have been located in the Gulf of Mexico, the Tanis site in North Dakota is roughly 3000 kilometers away. The reason why the remains are so well-preserved is a mystery.

The BBC believes the remains of animals and plants at Tanis seem to have been rolled together into a sediment dump from waves of river water set off by intense earth tremors  with ocean organisms mixed in with the land-based creatures.

The scientists also believe they have sourced a fragment of the asteroid itself.

This is because sturgeon found at the Tanis site had breathed in spherules of molten rock emitted in the impact.

When scientists examined these spherules in the sturgeon gills, they found they were linked to the Mexican impact site, and two examples that were encased in tree resin had tiny inclusions of extra-terrestrial origin.

“We were able to pull apart the chemistry and identify the composition of that material,” the University of Manchester’s Professor Phil Manning told the BBC, adding that “all the evidence, all of the chemical data, from that study suggests strongly that we’re looking at a piece of the impactor; of the asteroid that ended it for the dinosaurs.”

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