The Final Day with David Attenborough

A fragment of the asteroid that hit the Earth 66 million years ago and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the first ever fossilised remains of a dinosaur killed by the asteroid impact, are thought to be amongst the latest finds unearthed by University of Manchester palaeontologist Robert DePalma at a dig site he named Tanis in North Dakota.

These ground-breaking discoveries could provide the first ever physical evidence that dinosaurs were killed by an asteroid strike at the end of the Cretaceous. Never before has a dinosaur victim of the asteroid strike been found.

Alongside other extraordinary treasures, these finds will feature in a new 90 minute film– Dinosaurs: The Final Day with David Attenborough which airs on 15 April on BBC One and iPlayer.

University of Manchester palaeontologists first announced their stunning finds at the Tanis site in 2019 and uncovered a ‘treasure trove’ of geological records to help paint the picture of the final days of the dinosaurs.

Other finds include an incredibly rare pterosaur egg with the fossilised bones of a baby pterosaur inside; a fossilised burrow likely to have been made by an early mammal such as  a Pediomyid – and beautifully preserved Triceratops skin, which is exceedingly rare in the Hell Creek Formation.  

All the discoveries that feature in the documentary help build a detailed picture of what life was like at Tanis at the end of the Late Cretaceous – the very end of the dinosaurs’ 165 million year reign. With exclusive access to DePalma’s dig over three years, this film brings to life, in unprecedented detail, the lost world of the last days of the dinosaurs; revealing, in compelling CGI scenes, what happened when the asteroid struck the planet.

In the programme Sir David Attenborough joins DePalma and Professor Phil Manning of The University of Manchester, as they investigate ejecta spherules from Tanis which have been preserved in amber. Further analysis shows one spherule appears to have a fragment inside which could be a microscopic piece of the asteroid itself, perfectly preserved inside the spherule for 66 million years.  Described by Prof Manning as something that could be “a piece of the bullet that killed the dinosaurs”, this could be physical evidence linking the Tanis dig site to the Chicxulub impact.

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