Spectacular fossils found after meteorite impact

An international research team, including VU geologists Jan Smit and Klaudia Kuiper, discovered a mud pool in the American state of North Dakota that originated when the dinosaurs became extinct.

04/01/2019 | 11:48 AM

This provides new evidence that a meteorite impact on Yucatan (Mexico), 66 million years ago, ended the dinosaurs' lives. Today the study will be published in the scientific journal PNAS.

Graveyard
In a deposit of tsunami waves created just after the meteorite impact, a unique fauna and flora has been preserved that document the first hours after the impact. This gives an extraordinary insight into life on the continent at the time of the impact. The fossilized graveyard - piled up fish mixed with burned tree trunks and conifer branches, dead mammals, dinosaur feathers and insects - was dug up by the research team. Nowhere else on earth can you find such a collection of organisms that consists of so many different ages and represents different stages of life and all died at the same time.

Amazing discoveries
For several years Smit has been researching the site in silence with a research team led by the American authorities. He joined the team to analyze and date the ticks. Klaudia Kuiper has accurately dated the tektites via the Ar / Ar method in the VU geochronology laboratory at exactly the same age as the Chicxulub meteorite impact crater. Many tektites were found in almost perfect condition, embedded in amber. Smit: "We have made an amazing series of discoveries that will prove to be even more valuable in the future. These are only the very first finds, there is much more to come. In the current material we have already discovered several dinosaur feathers and one that has never been hatched egg from a pterosaurus. In the coming years we will continue to dig and study these fantastic deposits from different points of view. I think we can unravel the order of the ejected material through the impact down to the smallest details. We have never been able to do this with other impacts around the Gulf of Mexico ".

Media attention
Last Friday, magazine The New Yorker unexpectedly published an article on this subject, before the scientific publication appeared. Last weekend more publications followed, including Dutch newspapers Volkskrant and NRC.

Photo: Robert DePalma