Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hell Creek Formation near Ft. Peck Reservoir, ...Image via Wikipedia

Solving the puzzle of the extinction of dinosaurs in China...

In many of my posts at "The Green Planet" I have written of endangered species and climate change as well. Lets look at both subjects from another perspective - the past, in fact the distant past, about 65 million years ago. Right back to the age of the dinosaurs. But that story is being told right now in China, previously it was concentrated in America.

We have a good idea about the causes of the demise of the dinosaurs, this is to be confirmed very shortly if reports from China are accurate. Chinese scientist, Wang Haijun is reportedly certain the answer lies beneath a 300 metre ravine out in the countryside, 670 km southeast of Beijing, the capital city of China. This could be the final resting place where hundreds of dinosaurs lay huddled together in the final moments before their extinction millions of years ago.

There are fossils in that area: 15,000 odd bones from 65 million years ago in the late Cretaceous period shortly before dinosaurs became extinct on this planet. They support those well held theories of some "catastrophe" - explosions, global fires and sudden climate change.

Palaeontologist James Clark said the find is very important in understanding the reasons for the actual end of the dinosaur age.

The excavation is believed to be the largest dinosaur fossil site in the world. It is also evidence of a ground-breaking project in a country whose past governments rejected science as being part of the elite in their society. As the construction boom has swept China in recent years relics are being found that are causing history to be rewritten in China.

For decades most of the important research on dinosaurs centred around the USA - particularly in Utah and Montana. But attention has now moved to China with the most important discoveries in Zhuchang and other major sites.

During th 1966-76 cultural revolution scientists and other intellectuals were banished to the countryside, research institutions were closed and relics destroyed. But now modern China is pouring billions of dollars into archaeological projects - historical, ecological and palaetology - China has really become interestd in its very deep past.

Last March, 2009, a new fossil was discovered which indicated many dinosaurs actually had a featherlike fuzz, indicating a closer relationship between dinosaurs and birds. In inner Mongolia a whole herd of ostrich-like dinosaurs were excavated - giving researchers further insight into how the creatures grew up. There is undoubtably a treasure-trove of relics waiting to be found in China.

Researchers believe dinosaurs were killed and made extinct after a volcanic eruption, or perhaps more likely from a meteor impact, followed by flashfloods, landslides or a tsunami, that swept them all away. It is difficult to understand though why there are so many relics in one particular place. So very reminiscent of elephant graves in Africa where aging and dying elephants move together in their final days.

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