Scientist: This Dinosaur Died on the Day of Asteroid Strike

Leg was among many finds at North Dakota site that preserved the 'death blow'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2022 12:23 PM CDT

The asteroid that hit the Earth around 66 million years ago brought an abrupt end to the Cretaceous period—and to the life of a Thescelosaurus dinosaur whose incredibly well-preserved leg was found at a North Dakota site. Researchers say they can pinpoint the day of the dinosaur's death because the leg was found amid a tangle of debris from the asteroid strike and other fossils, including fish with impact glass spherules in their gills. "The time resolution we can achieve at this site is beyond our wildest dreams," says Phillip Manning, a professor of natural history at the University of Manchester, per the Guardian.

Manning—who describes the leg as the "ultimate dinosaur drumstick"—says the quality of the fossils at the Tanis dig site is "absolutely gobsmackingly beautiful." Experts have described the site as the "death blow preserved." An upcoming BBC show, Dinosaurs: The Final Day, will look at evidence from the site, including the leg and many other finds. "We've got so many details with this site that tell us what happened moment by moment, it's almost like watching it play out in the movies," says researcher Robert DePalma.

Paul Barrett at London's Natural History Museum says skin still attached to the leg shows the plant-eating species was scaly, unlike feathery meat-eating dinosaurs alive at the same time. "This looks like an animal whose leg has simply been ripped off really quickly," Barrett tells the BBC. "There's no evidence on the leg of disease, there are no obvious pathologies, there's no trace of the leg being scavenged, such as bite marks or bits of it that are missing. So, the best idea that we have is that this is an animal that died more or less instantaneously." (More dinosaurs stories.)

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