Proof so far of theory asteroid wiped out dinosaurs as leg with skin found

A stunning discovery and claim by scientists has been made that may be linked to one of the world's most catastrophic events.

The theory that a mass extinction event involving an asteroid wiping out the dinosaurs is widely supported and the discovery of a preserved dinosaur may support the theory, according to those that discovered it.

The Thescelosaurus leg was found at the Tanis fossil site in North Dakota in the US and comes complete with dinosaur skin.

The asteroid strike ended the reign of dinosaurs roaming the Earth around 66million years ago, leading to the rise of mammals and eventually human beings.

Broadcaster BBC has spent three years filming at the site for a new programme about the remarkable findings at Tanis.

The show, presented by BBC legend Sir David Attenborough, will be broadcast on April 15.

Findings at the site are hoped to be the first physical evidence of the asteroid strike, so what other proof is out there?

Did an asteroid really kill the dinosaurs?

We already know that there was a mass extinction event around 66million years ago and the 'Chicxulub event' is the most widely supported theory.

The theory was developed by Luis Walter Alvarez and his son Walter and says that it caused all or most non-bird dinosaurs and many other animals to die.

If an asteroid did strike the planet, and a crater has been located in the Gulf of Mexico around 150 kilometres in length, then it would have likely caused huge tidal waves and molten rock to be thrown far and wide. Even as far as the Tanis fossil site around 3,000km away.

Of the Tanis leg, Professor Paul Barrett told the BBC: "This looks like an animal whose leg has simply been ripped off really quickly. There's no evidence on the leg of disease, there are no obvious pathologies, there's no trace of the leg being scavenged, such as bite marks or bits of it that are missing.

"So, the best idea that we have is that this is an animal that died more or less instantaneously."

As ever, some scientists are careful of claiming immediately that the Tanis fossil is from the day of the event and are waiting for more peer-reviewed studies to emerge.

What evidence is there an asteroid killed the dinosaurs?

Fossils tell us that there was a mass extinction of a number of different species around 66million years ago.

The Alvarez theory originated from clay rich in iridium, one of the rarest metals on Earth. Iridium is associated with meteor impacts.

The new Tanis findings are hoped to be further evidence and as well as the incredible preserved leg, there is skin from a horned Triceratops, a dinosaur embryo, small mammals and their burrows and a turtle 'skewered' by a wooden stake.

The University of Manchester's Robert DePalma leads the Tanis dig and said: "We've got so many details with this site that tell us what happened moment by moment, it's almost like watching it play out in the movies. You look at the rock column, you look at the fossils there, and it brings you back to that day."

Also found at the site were fish fossils with small particles of debris in their gills. The theory is that they would have breathed in the debris when the asteroid hit.

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