Scientific breakthrough after ‘incredible’ dinosaur fossil discovered the day an asteroid hit Earth | Science | News

David Attenborough examines a fossilized dinosaur leg

The Chicxulub crater is on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and is one of the largest confirmed impact structures in the world. It is believed to be the site where a giant asteroid fell and wiped out the dinosaurs. The researchers generally agreed that the impactor – the asteroid – was about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in diameter.

It was large enough that, if placed at sea level, it would have ejected material more than twice as high as Mount Everest.

The Chicxulub impactor was so powerful that it rearranged the balance of the Earth’s biosphere.

But experts are divided on whether the dinosaurs’ demise really resulted from an asteroid strike.

And, until now, no signs of dinosaur fossils that could be dated to the time of the impact had been found.

Science: The discovery is the first of its kind and could change the history of dinosaurs (Image: GETTY/BBC)

Yucatán: The asteroid hit just off the coast of Yucatán, Mexico

Yucatán: The asteroid hit just off the coast of Yucatán, Mexico (Picture: Google Maps)

But in April, asteroid fragments and the first dinosaur fossils from the impact 66 million years ago were discovered at a dig site in North Dakota.

Robert DePalma, a paleontologist, unearthed the groundbreaking discovery: potentially the first physical evidence that ancient reptiles were wiped out by an asteroid strike that ended the Cretaceous period.

Along with asteroid fragments and fossils, a rare pterosaur egg was found.

And, much to the researchers’ delight, inside the egg were the fossilized bones of a baby pterosaur.

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Dinosaur: one of the researchers involved in the project examines the fossilized remains of the leg

Dinosaur: one of the researchers involved in the project examines the fossilized remains of the leg (Picture: BBC)

A preserved burrow – likely made by an ancient mammal – was also found, alongside a fossilized turtle that was skewered by a wooden stake, and a preserved Triceratops skin.

It is extremely rare to find fossils that are even within the last thousand years of the age of the dinosaurs, underscoring the significance of the finds.

Mr DePalma, speaking to BBC Science Focus magazine, said: “It’s the most amazing thing we can imagine here, best case scenario.

“The one thing we always wanted to find on this site and here we have it.”

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Ancient history: The fossilized leg in question

Ancient history: The fossilized leg in question (Picture: BBC)

David Attenborough: The naturalist appeared in a documentary exploring the discovery

David Attenborough: The naturalist appeared in a documentary exploring the discovery (Picture: BBC)

A documentary dubbed by David Attenborough was later shown on the BBC and followed the findings.

Footage showed researchers digging up major finds and exploring the area around the dig site.

This includes the moment the team discovers the leg of a small herbivorous Thescelosaurus – a dinosaur that may have witnessed the asteroid impact.

Phillip Manning, professor of natural history at the University of Manchester, who appears on the show, told the Today program it was an “absolutely bonkers” discovery.

Chicxulub impact crater: Where researchers think the asteroid hit

Chicxulub impact crater: Where researchers think the asteroid hit (Image: GETTY)

He said: “The temporal resolution we can achieve at this site is beyond our wildest dreams.

“It really shouldn’t exist and it’s absolutely beautiful.

“I never dreamed in my entire career that I could watch something a) so time-limited; and b) so beautiful, and also telling such a wonderful story.”

He said the team had also discovered the remains of fish that had breathed in impact debris from the asteroid impact, which happened 1,864 miles (3,000 km) away in the Gulf of Mexico. .

Prehistory: One of the scientists involved said the discovery was

Prehistory: One of the scientists involved said the find was ‘absolutely bonkers’ (Picture: BBC)

That, and the presence of other debris that rained down for a specific period immediately after the asteroid impact, allowed them to date the site with great accuracy.

Mr DePalma said: “We have so many details with this site that tell us what happened in every moment, it’s almost like watching him play in the movies.

“You look at the rock column, you look at the fossils there, and it brings you back to that day.”

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