Once upon a time in the history of our planet, dinosaurs were the primary rulers of the Earth. Everything we know or have theorized about these ancient creatures - including how they became extinct - is thanks to the ongoing work of paleontologists. A recent discovery of a dinosaur fossil might just date back to one of the most historic events - hundreds of millions of years ago.
It is a widespread view among scientists that a 7.5-mile-wide asteroid - nearly the size of Mount Everest - claimed the lives of these ancient reptiles millions of years ago. One of the dinosaurs that lost its life on that same day may have just been discovered in North Dakota, making it the youngest fossil of these creatures to ever be found. It features the perfectly preserved leg of a Thescelosaurus - complete with the animal's reptile-like skin. Debris from the impact of the asteroid crash was found at the site, indicating that the fossil may date back to the mass extinction event.
"We've got so many details with this site that tells us what happened moment by moment. It's almost like watching it play out in the movies," noted Robert DePalma, a graduate student from the University of Manchester who led the study in North Dakota. However, others were a little more skeptical. For example, Professor Paul Barrett from London's Natural History Museum claims that the findings need to be further scrutinized before any conclusions are made. He also explained that the dinosaurs could have died before the asteroid struck and may have been unearthed only to be buried back again from the impact, along with the debris.
Others doubt the idea that these historical creatures were killed by an asteroid. Additional theories include the Earth itself being responsible for the dinosaurs' extinction, one of which being a massive volcanic eruption. Ancient lava discovered in India aligns with the end of the Cretaceous period, between 60 and 65 million years ago. Today, the remaining volcanic rock covers an area of nearly 200,000 square miles - and sometimes is more than 6,000 feet thick. Such an event would likely have changed the Earth's atmosphere for the dinosaurs, releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases. But the truth is still uncertain. Although the recent discovery of the youngest fossil in history certainly is impressive, we still have to dig a lot deeper before we can know for sure. Stay tuned.