Super Fighters Adventure
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we go further back in time, until we actually get to the moment of the impact, about million years ago. As Ben joins the team drilling down into the rock for evidence of the asteroid’s effects, I’m traveling the world to look for clues from fossils. My first stop, , miles from the crater, is New Jersey. I’m here to see a mass prehistoric graveyard unlike anything that’s been unearthed before. This disused quarry may be one of the most important paleontological sites in the world. I’m here to view an intriguing discovery that may directly link the mass extinction to the asteroid impact. There’s something very strange about this mass extinction. So many animals died on that day, and yet, it’s virtually impossible to find casualties of this devastating event. But palaeontologists here in New Jersey think they might have found just that evidence of the day the dinosaurs died. It’s such an extraordinary claim, I want to see exactly what they’ve discovered. ‘I’ve arranged to meet palaeontologist Kenneth Lacovara, ‘one of the most experienced ‘and luckiest fossil hunters in the world. ‘He’s going to show me where the discovery was made, ‘in what used to be the seabed.’ We’re going back through time. We are. Now, if you take one more step, Alice, you will be in the Cretaceous. Excellent. ‘As we descend into the quarry, we arrive at layers of sediment ‘that were deposited during the Cretaceous period, ‘when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.’ So, down here, we’re in the Cretaceous period. Here, we’re in the Paleogene period, after the Cretaceous. ‘The boundary between the two periods marks the moment ‘that the dinosaurs went extinct, million years ago.’ So, this is the boundary right here. No-one in the world has found an in-place dinosaur fossil one centimetre above that line. The team uncovered a dense layer of fossils right at this boundary line. It’s potentially a unique discovery. Dinosaurs. No dinosaurs. Gosh, that’s extraordinary. ‘The animals found here are typical of the late Cretaceous.’ That’s a formidable-looking tooth. It is, isn’t it? Yeah. What’s that from? This is from a mosasaur. Mosasaur’s a giant marine reptile, an apex predator. Think of a Komodo dragon that’s as long as a bus, with paddles for limbs, a two-meter jaw packed full of these teeth. We find mosasaurs here below our bone bed and in the bone bed. We never find mosasaurs above the bone bed because they go extinct along with the dinosaurs. Ken believes that the mosasaurs he’s found here may be some of the last that ever lived… and that they died as part of the great extinction event. To understand why, we have to look at the other fossils that Ken has found in the quarry. This is incredible, Ken! HE LAUGHS Look at all those fossils. , of them. SHE GASPS The way you’ve laid them out in this grid, is this as you found them? These are the places in which we’ve found them, yep. square metres of them. SHE GASPS It’s an astonishing amount of work. All these fossils occur in a layer that’s no more than ten centimetres thick. ‘For Ken, the first clue that these animals all died ‘in a single catastrophic event ‘is that the skeletons are largely intact with no teeth marks on them.’ They weren’t transported, they weren’t scavenged, they died suddenly and they were buried quickly. That tells us that this is a moment in geological time that’s days, weeks, maybe months, but this is not thousands of years, this is not hundreds of thousands of years. This is, essentially, an instantaneous event. ‘A second clue comes from the surprising mix of species ‘that had lived in many different environments.’ I mean, I can pick out large vertebrates. Sure. We see the occasional bird here. There’s a tibia from a crocodile. And that’s laying next to a piece of the outer shell of a huge sea turtle, something that would be maybe a meter-and-a-half across. ‘And just a few feet away, ‘Ken found another turtle from a different part of the ocean.’ This is a coastal-living turtle. You can see how tightly articulated it is. The shell doesn’t flex, so we know that this turtle didn’t dive deeply in the ocean.