Pompeii-like Catastrophe Preserves Prehistoric Specimens

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A sudden raining down of hot, volcanic ash produced what experts are calling some of the finest early Cretaceous fossils ever found.


A sudden raining down of hot, volcanic ash produced what experts are calling some of the finest early Cretaceous fossils ever found.

American and Chinese researchers recently published a paper about the find, which was discovered in southeastern Mongolia.

It’s considered an amazing example of that period’s inhabitants in terms of both variety and detail.

Among the animal types represented are frogs, birds, dinosaurs, lizards, and mammals.

At first the experts were perplexed by how it could be that so many varieties of life were found perfectly preserved in concentrated areas on lake beds.

This latest study suggests they were smothered by sudden and hot volcanic ash flows that carried the bodies into nearby lake beds.

The speed of their deaths and completeness of their burials enabled the fossils to retain evidence of the animals’ soft tissue including skin, feathers, and muscles.

In addition to providing an excellent snapshot of life 125 million years ago, the find is predicted to be helpful in locating more fossil sites in the area.

Said a paleontologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York who was not involved with the study, "I think there is a lot of work left for us in finding fossils in China."

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