Chinese ravine may hold clues to what killed the dinosaurs

January 26th, 2010 - 1:07 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, January 26 (ANI): A team of scientists is of the opinion that a 980-foot-long ravine in the Chinese countryside may hold clues to what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

According to a report in the Washington Post, scientist Wang Haijun thinks that hundreds of creatures may have huddled in the ravine, located in Zhucheng, 415 miles southeast of Beijing, in the final moments before their extinction.

The fossils here, more than 15,000 fractured, mangled and blackened bones from about 65 million years ago in the late Cretaceous period, support theories of a catastrophe.

“This find is very important for understanding the very end of the age of dinosaurs,” said James M. Clark, a paleontologist at George Washington University who has examined some of the fossils.

The excavation here, believed to be the largest dinosaur fossil site in the world, is one of a number of groundbreaking research projects in China.

For decades, much of the important research into dinosaurs was in the United States, at sites in Utah and Montana.

But over the past two to three years, attention has shifted to China, with major discoveries in Zhucheng and other sites.

At the time dinosaurs were roaming across China, Zhucheng is thought to have been an area of grasslands submerged under several feet of water.

The researchers theorize that the dinosaurs were killed by the force of an explosion from a volcanic eruption or a meteor impact and then were caught in a flash flood, landslide or even a tsunami that threw them together.

Perhaps several such disasters occurred over a period of years.

“It’s very hard to understand why there are so many dinosaurs dead in one place,” said Wang, the principal technician on the excavation.

The pit has yielded some of the world’s largest duck-billed dinosaur specimens, bones of a type of dinosaur that had never been seen outside North America, and at least six new species.

One of the new dinosaurs has a pointy, triangular chin, kind of like a pelican’s bill, but made of bone.

Xu said that it is “the strangest creature I have ever seen.”

Even more intriguing is that there are seven distinctive “floors” of dead dinosaurs in the pit.

Some of the soil is yellow, other layers are red clay, which Xu said seems to show that “there wasn’t just one event. The dinosaur bones are preserved in different layers, suggesting they were killed in several different times,” he said. (ANI)

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