The Tanis fossil site located in North Dakota in the United States of America is currently one of the most interesting places on Earth. Well, that’s if you like dinosaurs and unraveling the ancient mysteries of our planet. Maybe you’re more into old computers that predict eclipses (opens in new tab). If not, uh, why not check out some of our hot content from Elden Ring (opens in new tab)? We have guides on best buildings (opens in new tab), how to survive (opens in new tab)and all sorts of things.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten rid of these people, back to the dinosaurs.
According BBC (opens in new tab), the site in Tanis has uncovered some of the most incredible dinosaur discoveries humans have ever made. Surprisingly preserved fossils have been found there, such as a pterosaur embryo preserved inside its egg. Scans on the egg revealed it was likely leather and may have been buried in the sand like a turtle’s eggs, which is super interesting for a flying creature.
Despite this incredible find, this isn’t necessarily the best the Tanis fossil site has to offer. Evidence is emerging that some of the remains found at this site may be from the exact time when the infamous asteroid Chicxulub wiped out dinosaur life. This is an incredible view of one of the most devastating events this planet has ever seen, other than humans of course.
Generally speaking, it is currently agreed that a collision with a space rock undid all the evolutionary hard work of many dinosaurs, causing a mass extinction. Evidence tells us that the impact took place in the Gulf of Mexico, which is 3,000 km from the Tannis site. The sheer power of this collision spread notes of the catastrophic event far and wide.
Because of this, all kinds of fossils can be found at the Tanis site. Archaeologists have found aquatic and terrestrial species all dumped in the same place, but this offers some even more interesting discoveries.
Some of the aquatic creatures found at the site had small pieces of molten rock stuck in their gills. These pieces were linked to the asteroid impact site by chemical and radiometric dating analysis. These fish are believed to have chunks of the impact stuck in their ancient bodies, and that’s a big clue to finding out more about this cataclysmic footnote in dinosaur history.
But that’s still not all archaeologists are finding at this incredible site. An entire Thescelosaurus leg, complete with preserved skin, has been discovered. Thescelosaurus was a relatively small dinosaur that ran on two legs and had a long tail. They are somewhat similar to the more well-known Dryosaurus. Think of the friendliest faces from things like Jurassic Park and you’re on the right track.
The preserved skin is a really cool insight because it’s totally new information for the species. This shows that this dinosaur likely had scaly lizard skin like what we traditionally imagine dinosaurs to have. That means this little herbivore would likely be featherless, like some of its fiercer carnivorous cousins.
But this ancient dinosaur drumstick isn’t done delivering shocking news. This leg is a cleanly removed piece of Thescelosaurus that is speculated to have been ripped off. There are no bite marks, signs of illness or specific injury, just a nice piece of leg. Due to the location and other discoveries being found, current speculation is that this leg was literally blown up by the very space rock that ended it all. More peer-reviewed tests are needed, but it’s still fascinating to think about. Turns out they were supposed to do the whole dino with their leg.
What makes all of this especially interesting is that dinosaur remains from this period are especially rare. Fossils even in the thousands of years leading up to the impact are simply not commonly found, likely in part due to the devastating effects of such an extinction event.
The good news is that there are more digging, science, and peer review studies to be done, so expect to hear even more land legal news ahead of time. A special show narrated by Sir David Attenborough on the Tennis website airs on BBC on 15 April (opens in new tab) which is probably worth checking out if you want to know more, or just want to hear one of the nicest people on the planet talk about dinosaurs.