The Last Day of the Dinosaurs: 66 Million-Year-Old Site Reveals ‘The Day the Earth Rained Glass’

In the Heart of North Dakota lies a prehistoric ‘Dinosaur killing field’ that offers unprecedented details on the very last days of the Dinos.

According to experts, this unprecedented discover presents a direct view into a period known as the K-T boundary, the end of the Cretaceous Period and the beginning of the Tertiary Period.

Massive earthquakes, tsunamis as well as a rain of glass spheres were the conditions to which continental and marine biodiversity could not survive in North America.

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Dinosaurs as well as other mammals met their end and were buried in a matter of hours or even tens of minutes after the impact of the Chicxulub asteroid.

This is according to a communiqué from the University of Berkeley (USA), auguring an upcoming publication of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Fossilized fish, vegetation, mammals, marine reptiles, as well as part of a Triceratops lay buried atop one another, preserving for eternity the exact moment a massive, 30-foot wall of water pummeled the landscape at the Hell Creek Formation, burying all living creatures in its path.

Fossilized fish piled one atop another, suggesting that they were flung ashore and died stranded together on a sand bar after the wave from the seiche withdrew. Image Credit: Robert DePalma.
Fossilized fish piled one atop another, suggesting that they were flung ashore and died stranded together on a sand bar after the wave from the seiche withdrew. Image Credit: Robert DePalma.

According to paleontologist Robert DePalma, the curator of paleontology at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History in Florida, this discovery marks the first ‘mass death assemblage’ of large lifeforms that has ever been uncovered that dates back 66 million years back, to the dinosaur extinction event.

In fact, the discovery of such importance that scientist shave already dubbed the outcrop the Holy Grail of fossils.

“At no other K-T boundary section [end of the Cretaceous Period] on Earth can you find such a collection consisting of a large number of species representing different ages of organisms and different stages of life, all of which died at the same time, on the same day,” explained DePalma.

The reason why the  Hell Creek Formation is so important is because, back during the Cretaceous, it was home to an inland sea where all sorts of prehistoric life, from mosasaurs to snail-like cephalopods called ammonites lived.

As the asteroid impacted against the Earth, thousands of miles way in what is now the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, it unleashed massive waves, that caused the flow of a reverse river to retreat, tossing thousands of sturgeon and paddlefish onto land.

A meteor impact 66 million years ago generated a tsunami-like wave in an inland sea that killed and buried fish, mammals, insects and a dinosaur (Triceratops), the first victims of a cataclysm that led to Earth's last mass extinction. The death scene from within an hour of the impact has been excavated at an unprecedented fossil site in North Dakota. Image Credit: Graphic courtesy of Robert DePalma.
A meteor impact 66 million years ago generated a tsunami-like wave in an inland sea that killed and buried fish, mammals, insects and a dinosaur (Triceratops), the first victims of a cataclysm that led to Earth’s last mass extinction. The death scene from within an hour of the impact has been excavated at an unprecedented fossil site in North Dakota. Image Credit: Graphic courtesy of Robert DePalma.

DePalma, who has been excavating the Hell Creek formation since 2013 found that after the tsunami caused the river to retreat, high-speed glass beads called tektites started raining down to Earth, the product of rock melting during the apocalyptic impact.

The researchers discovered Paddlefish with tektites embedded in their grills. In fact, scientists say that fast-traveling tektites continued raining down on Earth for as long as twenty minutes after the collision before a second hit buried the unfortunate, stranded fish in sand and gravel.

Tektites, 1 millimeter spheres of glass, recovered from the Tanis fossil bed. They were produced by the Chicxulub impact and fell within an hour of the impact. Image Credit: Robert DePalma
Tektites, 1-millimeter spheres of glass, recovered from the Tanis fossil bed. They were produced by the Chicxulub impact and fell within an hour of the impact. Image Credit: Robert DePalma

These creatures are thought to have been the very first ‘direct victims’ of the impact.

“It’s like a museum of the end of the Cretaceous in a layer a meter-and-a-half thick,” explained Mark Richards, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of earth and planetary science.

The scientific paper, set to be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences includes the work of DePalma and colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley and Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.

“The seismic waves start arising within nine to 10 minutes of the impact, so they had a chance to get the water sloshing before all the spherules had fallen out of the sky. ‘These spherules coming in cratered the surface, making funnels – you can see the deformed layers in what used to be soft mud – and then rubble covered the spherules. No one has seen these funnels before,” explained Professor Richards.

Via
EurekaAlert!
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