Scientists Find Fossil of Asteroid That Could Have Annihilated the Dinosaurs

Christiana Lenzer, Staff Writer

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An international team of paleontologists from the University of Kansas and the University of Manchester may have uncovered a fossil graveyard of 66 million years that contain the remains of an asteroid hit in North Dakota’s Hell Creek Formation. The team describes the find as “extraordinary evidence” that an asteroid was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs or as the team called the “motherlode of exquisitely preserved animal and fish fossils”. Recorded as one of the most destructive events in Earth’s history, the Chicxulub crater, created by the impact of the asteroid which lies beneath Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, extinguished 75% of the planet’s animal and plant species. The impact included massive tsunami-like surges and “ejecta”- torrents of rocks, like fine sand and small glass beads- a report said. Lead author, Robert DePalma said, “A tsunami would have taken at least 17 or more hours to reach the site from the crater, but seismic waves- and a subsequent surge- would have reached it in tens of minutes”. A University of Kansas student reported the surge left “a tangled mass of freshwater fish, terrestrial vertebrates, trees, branches, logs, marine ammonites, and other marine creatures”. This find contains the first direct evidence of larger organisms killed by the Chicxulub asteroid impact 66 million years ago. “No other site has a record quite like that,” said DePalma. “And this particular event is tied directly to all of us- to every mammal on Earth in fact. Because this is essentially where we inherited the planet. Nothing was the same after that impact. It became a planet of mammals rather than a planet of dinosaurs”. However, prominent paleontologists not involved in the study have voiced a note of caution in regard to the recent discoveries. “The dinosaur aspect of the story isn’t so clear to me,” Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh, told CNN. “The geological interpretation seems very credible to me, and the fish fossils do seem to record a catastrophic event at or near the asteroid impact. The only dinosaur fossil mentioned in the paper [of the report] is a single partial hip bone,” he added. “I hope there are other dinosaur fossils at the site, and I look forward to hearing more about them. I just hope this hasn’t been over-sensationalized. It would be awesome if it’s all true,” offering a glimpse of hope and comradery. Paul Upchurch, professor of paleontology at University College London, also had some inquiries about the study’s findings. He interjected, adding that if the ejecta came from a different, or smaller, impact at a different time and place or come from Chicxulub but stayed in the water for a long time afterward, “then it is possible that the fish etc died from some other reason- something less spectacular and more local- and had to do with the Chicxulub impact.”