Well preserved fossils found at the Jehol Biota, northeast China, suggest that a volcanic eruption in the Cretaceous Era may have caused the mass death of dinosaurs in that region. The fossil formations were similar to remains uncovered from the Roman city of Pompeii, which was buried instantly following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Associate professor with the School of Earth Sciences and Engineering at Nanjing University in China, Jiang Baoyu told Xinhua on Wednesday that the dinosaurs had been killed more than 120 million years ago by volcanic ash flow that was about 200 to 300 degrees Celsius in temperature.
"The flow was hot enough to kill the animals instantly but not hot enough to melt the remains, leaving exquisite fossils after the ash-covered remains were later submerged in lakes."
Scientists from Nanjing University, the American Museum of Natural History and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, began the research in 2011 and published their findings in the scientific journal "Nature Communications" on February 4, 2014
"Our findings have provided a pattern to explain mass deaths in the region back then. But it cannot explain the cause of the dinosaurs' extinction. The cause of their extinction is far more complex," Jiang said.
- "New evidence suggests pyroclastic flows are responsible for the remarkable preservation of the Jehol biota" - Baoyu Jiang, George E. Harlow, Kenneth Wohletz, Zhonghe Zhou & Jin Meng. Nature Communications 5, Article number: 3151 doi:10.1038/ncomms4151
Featured image credit: USGS / HVO