"Something is weird": incredible cemetery of dinosaurs that raises eyebrows in the world of paleontology

This photograph taken on March 30, 2019, courtesy of the University of Kansas, shows a 66-million-year-old fossil fish, partially exposed and perfectly preserved, discovered by Robert DePalma and his colleagues. - (Credit: ROBERT DEPALMA / AFP / Getty Images)

This photograph taken on March 30, 2019, courtesy of the University of Kansas, shows a 66-million-year-old fossil fish, partially exposed and perfectly preserved, discovered by Robert DePalma and his colleagues. – (Credit: ROBERT DEPALMA / AFP / Getty Images)

For some, it is the century's find, but for others, it does not accumulate. At least not yet.

It is said that an extraordinary site discovered in North Dakota, in the United States, is home to a treasure trove of fossils that show a meteor impact 66 million years ago that generated a tsunami wave in an inland sea that killed and buried fish, mammals, insects and a dinosaur.

The devastating event created a fossilized cemetery that has preserved ancient animals and debris from the space rock that give an idea of ​​what was happening in the minutes and hours after the most important mbad extinction event in the history of the Earth.

At least, that is the theory.

A paleontologist named Robert DePalma, a doctoral student at the University of Kansas, has been working on the site with his team since 2013. Although simplified, the previous theory is how he has come to understand the place of life change with which he has stumbled

He believes that after finding a diverse bed of fossils and tectites (gravel-sized bodies formed from earth debris ejected during meteorite impacts) he has discovered a site that represents the KT (or K-Pg) boundary. important: the terrestrial layer that separates the Cretaceous and the Paleogene.

"This is the first mbad death set of large organisms that anyone has found badociated with the K-T boundary," DePalma told Berkeley News.

"In no other section of KT limits on Earth can you find such a collection consisting of a large number of species representing different ages of organisms and different stages of life, all of which died at the same time, the same day "

According to him, that includes a series of dinosaur remains. In other words, an almost incontrovertible proof that the dinosaurs became extinct due to the ecological consequences of an asteroid impact.

What is emerging as one of the greatest paleontology stories of the century, was sparked by a widely shared New Yorker article titled "The Day Dinosaurs Died" with a series of incredible claims. But it preceded a research paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that did not live up to the expectations made by the magazine.

Excavations like this one are funded by museums, universities and even governments, but due to the great resources that may be at stake when it comes to fossil collections, there is also a private industry that exists around excavations.

In this case, Mr. DePalma reached an undisclosed commercial agreement with a rancher who owns the land where the site is located and has kept his discovery very close to his chest for the past five years.

The New Yorker article, which is both a 37-year profile of Mr. DePalma and that of the excavation site, paints the image of a site that is "the Holy Grail" and more of the world of paleontology. But few people have actually seen the sacred chalice, so to speak.

The geophysicist and impact expert at Purdue University, Dr. Jay Melosh, who was not part of the research, but edited the document, called it the "discovery of the century" for the field.

But many others have raised questions about why such incredible claims have been made in the media, but not in the academic world.

Dr. Stephen Brusatte, paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh and author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, is among those who have questions about the extraordinary claims of the team that, so far, has presided over the site silently.

"This is an amazing site, but I do not see any evidence of a dinosaur cemetery! Something is weird," he wrote on Twitter.

In an email to news.com.au, he said he was "very excited about this discovery," but noted that, apart from a single partial dinosaur hip bone mentioned in the newspaper, the ideas of a dinosaur cemetery reported in the media lacks real evidence until now.

"The New Yorker article reports on a dinosaur graveyard with bones from many types of dinosaurs, along with feathers, eggs and even embryos," he said. "I am afraid that there is no evidence, apart from a single partial bone, that I or other dinosaur paleontologists should evaluate at this time."

Dr. Brusatte, 35, is widely recognized as one of the leading paleontologists of his generation. He has written more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles during his decade of research in the field and has also named and described more than 10 new species of dinosaurs.

It is strange to him that many of Mr. DePalma's statements presented in the media are not mentioned in the PNAS journal article.

The New Yorker article reports on the long feathers found at the site where DePalma is "convinced that they are dinosaur feathers," the mammalian remnants of a mammal remotely related to primates and the signs of what he believes that it was an ancient excavating mammal.

"Many things in the New Yorker article are completely absent from the newspaper," Dr. Brusatte added. "The geology is very credible, but there is not yet enough evidence to evaluate the appearance of the dinosaurs in history."

Brian Switek is a scientific writer who specializes in paleontology and the author of My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs.

It is also strange to him that such a high level of secrecy has been maintained throughout the site, while only a few details have been included in the peer-reviewed journal.

"I think it's strange that so much preliminary work was done, and they're sure that the findings in the New Yorker article are part of the same face, that those fossils were not even mentioned in pbading," he told news.com. au. .

It is a typical practice for paleontologists to compile "lists of fauna" of the species present in an excavation site, he explained, and was surprised that one was not provided in the document.

Mr. DePalma and his team have cited concerns about poaching for not opening the site to many other researchers, something that is reportedly happening in the field. But Switek said such an argument "does not hold water" in professional paleontology.

"The information and details of the location should be shared with other professionals who wish to investigate, badist or otherwise investigate this site in accordance with the basic ethics of science," he said.

The exaggeration throughout the site, produced in large part by the New Yorker article, has left "many people scratching their heads, particularly due to the mismatch of the statements in the story versus the evidence in the document," he added.

Mr. DePalma could not be reached for comment, but there are reportedly more research articles related to the site that are on the way.

At least one thing is certain, as Mr. DePalma's thesis advisor at the University of Kansas said, the site will keep the specialists busy for at least half a century.

And as Dr. Brusatte told news.com.au: "It would be incredible if everything were true".

This story originally appeared on news.com.au.

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