BBC Documentary: Dinosaur Extinction: Do New Fossil Finds Provide Answers?

Found at the American Tanis excavation site

Perfectly Preserved Dinosaur Leg Discovered: A Clue to the Fate of the Dinosaurs?

Tannis, North Dakota.According to information from the BBC, researchers at an excavation site in Tanis, North Dakota (USA), have found fossils that could provide more detailed evidence of the asteroid impact on the Yucatan Peninsula that is said to have wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. While the asteroid impact is believed to have been confirmed, there is no clear evidence that dinosaurs actually died as a result of the impact. Among the finds: a particularly well-preserved dinosaur leg, presumably from Thescelosaurus.

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The BBC spent three years filming in Tanis the documentary ‘Dinosaurs: The Final Day’, which will be broadcast on April 15. In it, animal naturalist and filmmaker Sir David Attenborough, along with experts, look at the fossils, some of which are being shown to the public for the first time. “Tanis could be a place where the remains can give us unprecedented insight into the life of the last dinosaurs and give an updated picture of what happened when the asteroid hit,” Attenborough told the BBC.

“We have so many details at the dig site that tell us what happened at the time, it’s almost like seeing it in a movie. You look at the rock pillar, you look at the fossils there and it takes you back to this day,” he told the Times. BBC Robert DePalma, a doctoral student at the University of Manchester, UK, who is leading the Tanis dig.

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A dinosaur leg raises questions

Said to be complete with skin, the dinosaur leg is just one of several notable finds from the Tanis deposit. According to the excavation team, it is considered likely that the dinosaur that provided the leg died on the day of the asteroid’s impact, 66 million years ago. For documentation, the BBC team had the leg examined by other experts, such as Professor Paul Barrett of the Natural History Museum in London. He suspects that it came from the Thescelosaurus. Until now, it would not have been known what his skin was like. The find shows that this species of dinosaur was scaly like lizards and not feathered like its carnivorous contemporaries.

Furthermore, the find looks as if the animal’s leg had been ripped off. “There are no signs of disease on the leg, no obvious pathology, no evidence that the leg has been poached such as bite marks or missing parts of the leg,” Barrett said. “So our guess is that it was an animal that died more or less immediately.” That would mean that the dinosaur lost its leg in the asteroid impact and died from it.

skeptical expert

Professor Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, on the other hand, is skeptical of the find. More research by experts is needed, he told the BBC. He supports the theory that this dinosaur and other animals were dead before the asteroid hit them. According to this, the dinosaurs are said to have been transported to the earth’s surface by the impact and then covered by the earth again, giving the appearance that they died at the same time as the asteroid impact.

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Read more after the announcement

Excavations have been underway at the Tanis deposit since 2008. It has been known to the general public since 2019, when the American magazine “The New Yorker” reported on DePalma’s work. It’s in the hills of North Dakota. The findings so far fit the theory that the asteroid impact is responsible for the death of about three quarters of dinosaur species, as an international research team also wrote in the journal “Nature” in February 2022. According to this, studies on fish should show that the asteroid hit the northern hemisphere in spring 66 million years ago.


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