All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//February
18 02, 2013

Dinosaur Statue in America – A “Hidden Gem”

By | February 18th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

Celebrating America’s First Dinosaur

When discussing dinosaur discoveries made in the United States it conjures up thoughts about long treks into the western United States to explore the strata of states such as Utah, South Dakota, Colorado or the “Bad Lands” of Montana.  These parts of America have indeed proved to be a rich hunting ground for palaeontologists.  The rivalry between Cope and Marsh leading to the discovery of a great many dinosaur genera from the western part of that vast country during the 19th Century has been very well documented.  Many of these genera are household names, known to every school child and represent some of the most famous dinosaurs of all – Stegosaurus, Allosaurus and Diplodocus for example.  However, the very first United States dinosaur discovery did not take place in the west, the small town of Haddonfield in New Jersey on the eastern seaboard can lay claim to be the location where the first scientific excavation of a dinosaur fossil took place.

The small town of Haddonfield, which stands a couple of miles east of the Delaware River and just a few miles from the centre of Philadelphia, celebrated back in 2008, the 150th anniversary of the discovery, excavation and scientific description of the first major dinosaur find in the United States of America.  Amateur naturalist William Parker Foulke had discovered some very large fossilised bones in a marl pit the location of which is now in the centre of the town (Maple Avenue) and commemorated by a plaque and a civic bench.  There had been dinosaur fossils found in America prior to this, however, this was the first time that a large portion of the fossilised bones from a single specimen had been found.  Dr. Joseph Leidy (University of Pennsylvania), an eminent anatomist, was given the task of working out what the bones represented.  The Order Dinosauria had been erected some sixteen years previously and Dr. Leidy announced that the fossilised material represented the preserved remains of a giant, herbivorous dinosaur.  He named this new genus of dinosaur Hadrosaurus foulkii to honour William Parker Foulke who had discovered the fossils.  Thus, H. foulkii became the first member of the Order Dinosauria to be described in the United States, the town of Haddonfield, New Jersey, can lay claim to be being the birth place of dinosaur studies in America.  Unfortunately, the specimen excavated from the marl pit in Haddonfield, lacked a skull and the lack of any cranial material partially explains why this specimen has been omitted from a number of academic texts.

A two and quarter metre tall statue of a Hadrosaurus was erected in 2003 to commemorate the discovery.  This statue, designed by artist John Giannotti stands at 2 Kings Court in the centre of Haddonfield and the statue of the dinosaur is known affectionately by locals as “Haddy the Hadrosaurus”.  The magazine “USA Today” has declared this little homage to American palaeontology a hidden gem, a real honour when one considers the historical importance of the American eastern seaboard.   At just under six metres in length, it might be thought that this dinosaur statue could be seen as menacing passers-by, but as every school child in the town will tell you, Hadrosaurus was a peaceful, plant-eating giant.

The Statue of “Haddy the Hadrosaurus”

Statue marks the discovery of America's first dinosaur.

Statue marks the discovery of America's first dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Waymarking

The bronze statue of the dinosaur with its commemorative plaque and story board explaining which bits of the duck-billed dinosaur were actually found, is a tourist attraction and local landmark.  It is pleasing to see a statue erected ten  years ago to mark an event that took place more than one hundred and fifty years back has been awarded such an accolade by such a prestigious organisation as “USA Today”.

Commenting on the award, the artist Mr Giannotti declared:

“I think it is wonderful.  It’s a nice tribute, I like the idea of it being considered a hidden gem.”

17 02, 2013

Feathered Dinos Toob (Safari Ltd) Reviewed

By | February 17th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur videos, Product Reviews|0 Comments

A Review of the Feathered Dinosaurs Model Set (Safari Ltd) by Everything Dinosaur

As a result of a number of requests received, team members at Everything Dinosaur are making a number of video reviews of prehistoric animal replicas manufactured by Safari Ltd.  We have prepared a short (five minutes and seventeen seconds), video showcasing the “Feathered Dinos Toob”.

This set of twelve dinosaur models features the non-avian feathered dinosaurs -Microraptor, Dilong, Velociraptor, Sinornithosaurus, Caudipteryx and Beipiaosaurus.  The non-feathered replicas in this set include T. rex, Apatosaurus, a lovely Chasmosaurus, Protoceratops, Pachycephalosaurus and a Psittacosaurus* model.

Everything Dinosaur’s Video Review of the Feathered Dinosaurs Toob

Video Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Psittacosaurus* – when this set was being designed, Psittacosaurus as a member of the bird-hipped dinosaurs and related to the horned dinosaurs such as Styracosaurus and Triceratops was not thought to be feathered. Only fossils of lizard-hipped feathered dinosaurs had been found at the time.  However, recent fossil discoveries have revealed that Psittacosaurs may have been covered in bristle-like proto-feathers.

To read more about this: Upsetting the Feathered Dinosaur Apple Cart

This dinosaur “Toob”, as our American friends call this model set, is popular with collectors as it contains a number of splendid dinosaur models including a wonderful model of Protoceratops.  All the models are hand-painted and supplied in their own acetate tube with a cleverly designed closing cap.  This dinosaur model set is also very popular with children as it is great for creative play.

 

16 02, 2013

“Lolong” Largest Saltwater Crocodile in Captivity is Dead

By | February 16th, 2013|Animal News Stories|0 Comments

Locals Mourn the Death of their Giant Crocodile

A huge crocodile known as “Lolong” has died at the Philippine eco-tourism park he inhabited just eighteen months after being captured.  The Saltwater crocodile was officially declared the largest crocodile in captivity in 2011. It was measured at 6.17 metres long and it weighed more than one thousand kilogrammes, this reptile resembled a prehistoric monster, not out of place in a dinosaur movie.  The crocodile had become a significant tourist attraction and as the local mayor of the town of Bunawan, where the park was located,said:  “Lolong helped put our town on the world map”.

Believed responsible for the deaths of a number of local fisherman, an extensive crocodile hunt was instigated to bring this man-eater into captivity.  The marshes of the Agusan del Sur province of the Philippines were searched and eventually this monster crocodile was caught in a trap, tempted by the carcase of a pig used as bait.  When the crocodile was captured, pictures of the huge reptile tied to a cart and surrounded by excited villagers quickly spread around the world, this part of the Philippines had found fame and fortune thanks to this apex predator.

To read an article about this reptile’s capture: Monster Crocodile Caught in the Philippines

The crocodile, which is thought to have been at least fifty years of age, fell ill after swallowing a piece of nylon cord about three weeks ago and it had been suffering from intestinal problems but the actual cause of death has yet to be determined.  An autopsy is being carried out and the results will be published next week.  The weather had been unseasonably cold and it is thought that the crocodile could have been affected by the chilly conditions.  Whatever, the cause of death, the crocodile will leave much of the town in mourning as it had been a big tourist attraction bringing lots of visitors to Bunawan.

The Giant Crocodile Captured

Giant "Saltie"

Giant "Saltie".

The crocodile was discovered last Monday, floating upside down in its enclosure with a very bloated stomach.  A veterinarian who specialises in reptiles was called in and the crocodile was immersed in a pool of tepid water in a bid to revive it but to no avail.  Sadly, this crocodile had passed away within eighteen months of its capture.

Mayor of Bunawan, Edwin Elorde commented:

We don’t know what happened to it.  Its death is a complete mystery at the moment and I have to admit that I am really depressed.  I have come to love that crocodile, it brought fame and fortune to our town.”

A number of other Saltwater crocodiles have already been offered to the specially created eco-tourism park that was set up to house “Lolong”, however, lurking in the marshes surrounding the town there are rumoured to be even larger crocodiles still on the loose.  The eco-system in the marshland is particularly rich, providing a refuge for a number of endangered species in the Philippines as well as some very large Saltwater crocodiles.  Although not closely related to dinosaurs, the residents of the town of Bunawan came to appreciate the fact that they had their very own prehistoric monster which was in itself a significant tourist attraction.

A pig was slaughtered in honour of the deceased reptile and offerings were made by locals to the spirit of “Lolong”.  The crocodile has had its head removed and been skinned.  The rest of the carcase was buried so that the flesh could rot quickly away allowing the bones to be exhumed at a later date and an exhibit created.  It is hoped that even in death this very large crocodile would act as symbol of the rich natural environment and help to preserve the habitat as well as encouraging eco-tourists into the province.

To read an article about the largest crocodiles in captivity: Philippine Crocodile is Declared Largest in Captivity

15 02, 2013

Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animal Models – Which to Review?

By | February 15th, 2013|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur videos, Press Releases|2 Comments

Which Safari Ltd Prehistoric Animal Models Should Everything Dinosaur Make A Video Review?

It has been suggested that team members at Everything Dinosaur make some more video reviews of the prehistoric animal models made by Safari Ltd.  We do make short, (five minutes) video reviews of a number of prehistoric animal models and replicas.  For example, in the Safari Ltd prehistoric animal model ranges we have already made videos for the Deinosuchus, the new Brachiosaurus, Miragaia as well as the Carnotaurus (Carnegie Collectibles).  In the Wild Safari Dinos and Prehistoric Life series we have already reviewed Kaprosuchus, Inostrancevia, Dracorex, Ceratosaurus, Vagaceratops as well as the new T. rex and Acrocanthosaurus models.

Naturally, it is our intention to review the new 2013 releases from Safari Ltd, these will be made in due course, but we have received a request following discussions with Safari Ltd for Everything Dinosaur team members to make some more videos of models.

Which models of prehistoric animals made by Safari Ltd would you like to see reviewed?

We have already received requests to review the scale model of Spinosaurus made by this American company, along with a request to review the American Museum of Natural History Feathered Dinosaurs Toob.  So far we have reviewed a number of the “Toob” products made by Safari Ltd – prehistoric sharks and prehistoric crocodiles as well as the prehistoric sealife Toobs.

The New 2013 Concavenator Model (Carnegie Collectibles)

On the Safari Ltd Calendar.

On the Safari Ltd Calendar.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the new Carnegie Collectibles Concavenator dinosaur model made by Safari Ltd.  It features on the Safari Ltd calendar.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur intend to produce a review of this new replica when stocks are available.  Readers have the chance to suggest what models they would like us to produce a video of.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of Safari Ltd prehistoric animal models: Dinosaur and other prehistoric animal models

14 02, 2013

Talented Young Palaeontologists at Rode Heath Primary School

By | February 14th, 2013|Educational Activities, Photos/Schools, Teaching|0 Comments

Year 2 Demonstrate their Dinosaur Drawing Skills

Another day and another school visit, this time to Rode Heath Primary School in Cheshire.  The year two children under the tutelage of Mrs Woollam the class teacher, have been studying dinosaurs this term.  There was lots of artwork on display including a very colourful wall mural showing, in the foreground, a bright orange Tyrannosaurus rex chomping on a bone.

Rode Heath Primary with their own “Walking with Dinosaurs” Wall Display

A very colourful dinosaur scene.

A very colourful dinosaur scene.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The T. rex is heading towards a group of herbivorous dinosaurs.  There are horned dinosaurs (Ceratopsians), and an Ankylosaurus whilst amongst the trees two Titanosaurs lurk.  It is certainly a very impressive mural.  Forming a border around the picture there are some cut-out Tridactyl (three-toed) dinosaur footprints intermingled with footprints made by the school children.

Year two have been busy making exhibits for their very own dinosaur museum.  Teaching Assistant Mrs Hulse was busy taking photographs of the fossils that we brought so that they too could be included in the class museum. Some of the pupils are going to be tour guides for the museum so they will have to “bone up” on lots of dinosaur facts and figures.

Dinosaurs and fossils make an excellent subject for a term topic.  Lots and lots of extension activities can be employed to help children develop writing and numeracy skills.   For example, Mrs Woollam’s class have been working on their own dinosaur “pop-up” books, showcasing some of the artwork they have produced as well as providing a great platform for creative writing.

Chloe Thompson (aged 7), decided to include a very fierce looking meat-eating dinosaur in her pop-up book.   Team members at Everything Dinosaur were very impressed with the big teeth.

Pink and Blue Meat-eating Dinosaur by Chloe Thompson

A very colourful dinosaur.

A very colourful dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Chloe Thompson

If you look carefully you can see that Chloe has added some dinosaur bones in the foreground.  Part of the lesson covered the different types of dinosaur, herbivore, carnivore and even omnivores.

Millie and her Herbivorous Dinosaur

A Sauropod suns himself.

A Sauropod suns himself.

Picture Credit: Millie

Millie chose to depict a plant-eating dinosaur in her pop-up book.  The Sauropod is painted with blues, greens and even a little bit of pink – nice one Millie.

The pupils have had the chance to explore dinosaur footprints, we showed some bones and the children had guess which part of the dinosaur they were.  Jonny (aged 6) depicted a set of dinosaur tracks in his special dinosaur book.

Jonny Illustrates a Set of Dinosaur Footprints

Depicting a Dinosaur Trackway

Depicting a Dinosaur Trackway.

Picture Credit: Jonny (aged 6)

The children had prepared lots of questions, including one about Giganotosaurus.  We did our best to answer them all and to explain about flying reptiles, dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.  The team members at Everything Dinosaur were most impressed with the creative writing, the artwork and the knowledge demonstrated by the children.

13 02, 2013

Jurassic Park 4 Cinema Release – June 13th 2014

By | February 13th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans|0 Comments

Date of Release of Jurassic Park 4 Confirmed

The fourth instalment of the Jurassic Park franchise is due to be released on June 13th 2014.  The current licence holders working in a partnership with Universal Studios merchandising operations for toys and figures – Hasbro, have been retained and we can expect a range of models and other merchandise to be released to coincide with this Summer blockbuster, cinema release.

The first “Jurassic Park” which was released in 1993, remains Universal’s highest grossing film ever, with over $921 million of revenue generated at the box office worldwide.  Expect this figure to be boosted by a considerable amount when the 20th anniversary edition of the original movie now with 3-D added is released in April.

Correction, as of early 2014 the release date was altered to June 12th 2015.

12 02, 2013

Papo Woolly Rhino Model Reviewed

By | February 12th, 2013|Everything Dinosaur Products, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|2 Comments

A Review of the Papo Woolly Rhinoceros Prehistoric Animal Model

The new Papo Woolly Rhino model is an excellent replica of the shaggy coated Rhinoceros whose fossils have been found in Pleistocene aged deposits across Europe.  A number of Woolly Rhino fossils from the genus known as Coelodonta have been found in France, so it is fitting for a replica of this iconic Ice Age beast to be added to the French manufacturer’s model range.

From the tip of its stubby tail (an adaptation for living in a cold climate), to the front edge of the model’s large anterior, nose horn, the replica measures approximately 17 centimetres long and stands a little over 9 centimetres high at the shoulder.  If we compare this figure to the fossil record for Coelodonta in Europe, the size of this model can be estimated to be around 1:25 scale.

The Papo Woolly Rhino Prehistoric Animal Model

New for 2013 - Papo Woolly Rhino

New for 2013 - Papo Woolly Rhino.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The model is very well painted and the individual strands of long, shaggy hair that make up the coat of this animal can be clearly seen.  The ears are pricked and facing forward, the eyes are relatively small, whilst the nostrils are quite large, suggesting that as with most members of the rhino family, the Woolly Rhino had poor eyesight and relied more heavily on its other senses such as hearing and its sense of smell to detect danger.

This nicely detailed replica represents a grazing mammal that probably originated in Tibet, the descendants of these first Woolly Rhinos quickly spread across a wide geographical area, and fossil remains have been found over much of Europe including the United Kingdom, although there is very little evidence found to date to suggest that these large mammals, some of whom could have weighed up to 2,000 kilogrammes, ever got as far west as Ireland.

The large, anterior horn (the one on the tip of the nose), has been carefully crafted and appears flattened.  Like modern rhinos, the two horns of Coelodonta were made of keratin (compressed, fibrous hair).  However, fossil evidence suggests that the anterior horn was not pointed but had a rather flattened,  keeled appearance.  Scientists believe that the horn of the Woolly Rhino got its strange, keeled shape as the rhino grazed moving its head from side to side wearing the sides of the horn down.  The Woolly Rhino may have also used its horn to clear snow in order to find food.  This prehistoric mammal could have had its own built-in snow plough.

In conclusion, this is an excellent Woolly Rhino model, one that works well with the other prehistoric  mammals and cavemen in the Papo range.

To view the range of prehistoric animal models in the Papo series available from Everything Dinosaur: Papo Prehistoric Animal Models

11 02, 2013

Chinese New Year – The Year of the Snake

By | February 11th, 2013|Animal News Stories|0 Comments

The Year of the Snake

So we enter the year of the Snake according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar.  Of the twelve animals that make up the Chinese zodiac, two are reptiles, there is the Chinese dragon, the fossilised bones of long extinct dinosaurs, no doubt being identified by Chinese sages as proof of the dragon’s existence.  The second reptile of the zodiac is the snake and 2013 is the year of the snake according to the traditional Chinese calendar.

With the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (Beijing, China) having the world’s largest collection of vertebrate fossils, it seems fitting to consider the snake, or most certainly the Order Squamata (lizards and snakes) from a palaeontology perspective at the start of the Chinese year of the snake.

Snakes are not closely related to dinosaurs, but they did evolve in the Mesozoic just like the Dinosauria.  Today, snakes and lizards are the most abundant and diverse of all the reptiles. The Squamata  represent the scaled reptiles, the bodies of these animals are covered in horny, shield-like scales.  The Order Squamata is divided into a number of Sub-orders, snakes are within the Sub-order Serpentes.  The paucity of the known fossil record makes pinpointing the approximate evolution of the first members of the Squamata very difficult.  Fossils are known from the Mid Jurassic and as snakes evolved from lizards, the first fossils of lizard-like reptiles pre-date those of the true snakes (Serpentes).  Evidence relating to assessments of the molecular clocks of Squamata suggests that this Order may have had its origins in the Permian geological period.  However, since there has only been a handful of early snakes and ancestral snake fossils found to date, palaeontologists remain uncertain as to the phylogenetic relationship between snakes and other elements of the Squamata.

The earliest snakes were probably non-venomous constrictors, these probably evolved during the Late Cretaceous and with the demise of the dinosaurs at the end of this geological period, those groups of snakes that survived the mass extinction event rapidly diversified and became apex predators in a number of eco-systems.  For example, beautifully preserved snake fossils from the Messel shales (near to Frankfurt, Germany), dating from the early Tertiary show that a number of snake species hunted in the tropical forests of this part of the world.  Palaeopython was one of the largest species with some specimens measuring up to two metres in length.  The largest snake known from the fossil record is Titanoboa (T. cerrejonensis).  Fossils found in a Columbian coal mine and described in 2009 indicate a giant constrictor which may have measured more than fifteen metres in length and it would have had a body as thick as an oil drum.

To read an article on the discovery of Titanoboa: Titanoboa – Giant Snake of the Palaeocene

There have been a number of Cenozoic snake fossils found in China.  People born in the year of the snake in traditional Chinese culture are supposed to take on some characteristics of these reptiles.  Custom states that these people are not outwardly emotional and tend to value their privacy.  They are cunning, meticulous but not good communicators.  However, people born in the year of the snake are believed to be dedicated, goal orientated and good at working alone.  Some almanacs state that people born in the year of the snake make good scientists, even palaeontologists.

Happy Chinese New Year.

10 02, 2013

A Review of the Papo Carnotaurus Dinosaur Model

By | February 10th, 2013|Everything Dinosaur Products, Product Reviews|2 Comments

Papo Carnotaurus Dinosaur Model Reviewed

The newly released Carnotaurus dinosaur model manufactured by Papo is an excellent representation of a very unusual dinosaur .  Indeed, this prehistoric animal was so unlike most other dinosaurs known to science at the time of its discovery, that when it came to scientifically describing the fossils it was immediately placed into its own, new dinosaur family – the Abelisaurids.  It is clear from this dinosaur model that the design team at Papo have taken great care to ensure that their Carnotaurus accurately represents the fossil material.

Named in 1985 after the discovery of an almost complete skeleton in Argentina, Carnotaurus is estimated to have been around seven and a half metres in length when fully grown.  As the Papo figure measures a fraction over 19 cms long, from the tip of its tail to the front of its deep, box-like skull, the model is approximately a 1:40 scale replica.

The Papo Carnotaurus Dinosaur Model

"Meat-eating Bull" from Papo.

"Meat-eating Bull" from Papo.

Picture Credit: Papo/Everything Dinosaur

The name Carnotaurus means “meat-eating bull”, a reference to the two horns that stick out sideways from the top of the head, just above the eye sockets.  Papo have made the horns on their dinosaur model quite prominent.  These horns would certainly have intimidated a rival if used for display.  Examination of the actual fossil skull material shows that the top portion of the skull is thickened, perhaps these predatory dinosaurs may have butted heads to settle disputes just as some sheep and goats do today – a form of intra-specific combat.  This model shows the sleek and narrow lower jaw typical of an Abelisaurid, the mouth is particularly well painted whilst the individual, slender teeth have been very carefully depicted by the design team.

As with a number of Theropod dinosaur models available from the Papo Dinosaurs model range, the lower jaw is articulated so the Carnotaurus can be depicted with the mouth closed, or open.

A Close up of the Articulated Lower Jaw of the Papo Carnotaurus Dinosaur Model

Open Wide!

Open Wide!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Skin impressions preserved at the Patagonian site where the first Carnotaurus fossils were found indicate that this dinosaur was covered in short scales and had rows of bumps along its flanks  that seem to have got bigger and more distinct moving up from the belly towards the spine of the animal.  This skin texture has been authentically reproduced, once again demonstrating the attention to detail of the dedicated designers at the French company.

A Close up of the Papo Carnotaurus Dinosaur showing the Skin Detail

Very detailed skin on this new dinosaur model.

Very detailed skin on this new dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

All in all this is an excellent model of a Carnotaurus and one that is a welcome addition to the Papo “Dinosaures” model range.  It is sure to prove to be a big hit with dinosaur fans and model collectors.

To view the range of Papo prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: Papo models and figures

9 02, 2013

Cretaceous Mass Extinction Event Most Accurate Date Established

By | February 9th, 2013|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Palaeontological articles|1 Comment

International Team Establish Most Accurate Date Yet for Extraterrestrial Impact

If you were able to travel back in time, one part of Earth’s history that would be best avoided would be 66,038,000 years ago plus or minus 11,000 years, as this period has been identified by a team of international researchers as being the time of the impact of a huge object from space that aided the extinction of the Dinosauria and the demise of about seventy percent of all land animals.

Scientists from the Berkeley Geochronology Centre (University of California), in co-operation with colleagues from Glasgow University and Vrije University (Amsterdam, Holland), have concluded that an asteroid, meteorite or possibly even an object such as a comet collided with the Earth approximately 66.038 million years ago.  Although this single event may not have been the cause of the mass extinction, the scientists conclude that if the extraterrestrial impact was not wholly responsible, it would have contributed significantly to the global extinction event.  Based on the dateline evidence that the team established, the impact of a large extraterrestrial object in the Gulf of Mexico area could have proved to have been the final blow that saw off the Dinosauria, marine reptiles and Pterosaurs.

Commenting on the research, which has just been published in the academic journal “Science”, one of the Californian based authors of the paper stated that the extinction and the impact are synchronous to each other and therefore it is highly probable that the impact played a major role in the mass extinction.  In essence, the impact from outer space and the subsequent environmental and climatic chaos that followed, may have been the “tipping point” for the dinosaurs, finally leading to their extinction.

Accurately Dating the Late Cretaceous Earth Impact Event

A contributory factor in the mass extinction?

A contributory factor in the mass extinction?

It was father and son Luis and Walter Alvarez who first published a theory (1980), stating that a thin layer of clay enriched with the rare Earth element iridium found at the boundary between Uppermost Cretaceous strata and younger Cenozoic deposits marked the impact of a large, extraterrestrial object.  It was these two American scientists who first claimed that this was evidence of a meteorite or some other object from outer space colliding with the Earth.  Although the American scientists did not know where the impact actually occurred.  This was resolved when the Chicxulub crater, a geological feature that had been first identified in the 1970s, was more thoroughly examined in the 1990s and it was established that this feature had been created around the time of the end of the Cretaceous.  The object, measuring around ten kilometres in diameter and travelling at around thirty kilometres a second smashed into the Gulf of Mexico, close to what is now the village of Chicxulub on the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

The impact was cataclysmic, some scientists estimate that the collision released energy equivalent to 100 million hydrogen bombs.  A crater was blasted into the Earth more than 100 kilometres wide and up to 12 kilometres deep.  Virtually all life within thousands of miles of the impact zone would have been annihilated almost immediately.  Some 50,000 tonnes of rock was thrown up into the Earth’s atmosphere and huge quantities of sulphur was released, which when mixed with water droplets then fell to Earth as vast amounts of dilute sulphuric acid (acid rain), destroying what vegetation had survived the earthquakes, tsunamis and wildfires.

This new research helps to clarify any potential concerns over the timing of this catastrophic event in the history of life on Earth.  This event seems to have taken place at around the time of the mass extinction, not a long time before or indeed after the extinction event.  The impact and the mass extinction seem to be contemporaneous with each other.

Some scientists have argued that there may have been two extraterrestrial impacts at or around 65-66 million years ago, whilst others have provided evidence to suggest that the dinosaurs and other large, land vertebrates lived for approximately 300,000 years after the impact event.  This new research may not end the debate on the Cretaceous mass extinction event but at least it allows scientists an opportunity to build up a more accurate timeline of events at the very end of the Age of Dinosaurs.

Tektites, glassy spheres of molten rock that had been created at the moment of impact and hurled up into the atmosphere to later fall to Earth formed an important element in this new dating study.  If this material along with other elements that make up the famous K-T boundary between Mesozoic aged and Cenozoic aged deposits could be dated accurately then a more precise date for the actual impact could be established.  Part of the scientific team travelled to Haiti to collect tektites whilst other researchers explored the Upper Cretaceous sediments such as volcanic ash laid down in the famous Hell Creek Formation of Montana (United States).  Samples were gathered and analysed in laboratories using a dating technique called “argon to argon dating”.

The samples were analysed in laboratories in the United States, “argon-argon dating” was used to determine their ages more precisely.  Argon-argon dating is a form of radiometric dating.  Radioactive elements decay and have isotopes which allows scientists to date the formation of certain elements within igneous rocks, thereby making it possibly to establish a chronology of the Earth’s history.  This dating technology uses the fact that naturally radioactive potassium decays into argon at a very regular rate.  Determining the ratio of these two elements in a sample provides a geophysicist with a method of calculating the age of the sample material.

University of Glasgow researchers conducted their own independent analysis of the samples and they confirmed the results of the American research team, thus the researchers were able to establish a new, more accurate date for the Yucatan impact.

The team are keen to point out that this single, terrible impact event was not the sole cause of the mass extinction.  Towards the end of the geological period known as the Cretaceous there seems to have been a number of other factors in play all contributing to climate change.  The sustained and immense volcanism which occurred in what was to become India would have had a major impact on the Earth’s climate.  The enormous basaltic lava flows of western and central India – known as the Deccan Traps, indicate that the most violent and devastating eruptions are dated very closely to the mass extinction event.  This geological activity would have had a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and this activity could have been a causal factor in the mass extinction.  The international research team hope to be able to use the argon-argon dating techniques to accurately map and date the Deccan Traps.  In doing this, the team will be helping to build up a more complete picture of the series of events that led to the demise of the dinosaurs.

To read an article that explores the possible range of contributory factors involved in the Cretaceous mass extinction event: Exploring the Cretaceous Mass Extinction

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