Fossil ‘meteorite impact dino graveyard’, according to reports in BBC News, National Geographic and ScienceDaily 29 March 2019, CNN and Science News 1 April 2019, and PNAS published online 1 April 2019, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1817407116.
Palaeontologists in North Dakota USA have found a fossil graveyard they claim was formed as a result of the impact of a meteor in Chicxulub, Mexico, an event widely claimed to have killed off the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period. According to ScienceDaily the deposit contained “fish stacked one atop another and mixed in with burned tree trunks, conifer branches, dead mammals, mosasaur bones, insects, the partial carcass of a Triceratops, marine microorganisms called dinoflagellates and snail-like marine cephalopods called ammonites”.
The scientists also found numerous tiny glass beads embedded in the gills of the fish and in resin from the trees. The glass beads, called tektites or ejecta spherules, are formed when molten rock is sprayed into the air and falls back to earth. They also found a layer of clay containing iridium overlying the site. Iridium is an element rare on earth, but is found in meteorites. The spherules are dated as 65.8 million years ago. The scientists claim the iridium and the spherules confirm the fossil site’s association with Chicxulub impact crater, and suggest the fossils were rapidly buried by a mass of sediment raised up by a seismic shockwave generated by the meteor impact.
The fossil site, named Tanis, is part of the Hell Creek Formation in north-western USA.
Robert DePalma, who found the site commented, “No other site has a record quite like that. And this particular event is tied directly to all of us – to every mammal on Earth, in fact. Because this is essentially where we inherited the planet. Nothing was the same after that impact. It became a planet of mammals rather than a planet of dinosaurs.”
Other scientists are not so certain. Stephen Brusatte, a palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh, told CNN: “The geological interpretation seems very credible to me, and the fish fossils do seem to record a catastrophic event at or near the asteroid impact. But the dinosaur aspect of the story isn’t so clear to me.” He went on to say: “The only dinosaur fossil mentioned in the paper is a single partial hip bone. I hope there are other dinosaur fossils at the site, and I look forward to hearing more about them. I just hope this hasn’t been over-sensationalized. It would be awesome if it’s all true.”
Paul Upchurch, professor of palaeontology at University College London, also commented that the ejecta could have come from another event, and “then it is possible that the fish etc. died for some other reason – something less spectacular and more local – and had little to do with the Chicxulub impact.”
Editorial Comment: Excited media stories about this fossil site have used it to promote the current belief that dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteor impact in Chicxulub, Mexico, which filled the atmosphere with dust and debris, and left a layer of iridium-rich sediment. Layers of iridium are found in various places on earth, and are claimed to mark the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, i.e. the end of the last dinosaur era and the beginning of the age of mammals.
This editor has visited several of these Iridium layers across the planet (including the one above the Hell Creek beds in this report) but notes a main fallacy in the claim that the iridium represents a catastrophic event that led to the dinosaurs dying out, is that there should be dead dinosaurs above the layer rather than just below it. Unless of course, they want to claim the catastrophe selectively killed dinosaurs in one day, but left other animals alive, including many reptiles still living today. Furthermore, both iridium and glass beads can come from volcanic eruptions as well.
As Brusatte and Upchurch point out, there is no reason to connect this new deposit to the Chicxulub crater, which is approximately 3,000 km (1,860 miles) away, or to the extinction of dinosaurs. Both volcanoes and meteor strikes have occurred in North America, much closer to this fossil site. As Brusatte, a well-known dinosaur expert, pointed out, the only evidence for dinosaurs dying in this catastrophe is one part of a hipbone.
Finally, whilst the removal of one kind of animal may provide ecological space for other animals to live in, it does not explain the origin of other kinds of animals. So the claim that extinction of the dinosaurs (whatever the cause) led to the rise of mammals is another evolutionary myth.
Evidence News vol. 19, No. 6
11 April 2019
Creation Research Australia
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