Monday, 11 April 2022


Thescelosaurus Leg from Tanis, North Dakota

We live in a remarkable world. For those of us who love palaeontology, we have a huge fondness for animals that lived and died before we ever had a chance to meet them — except through their fossilized bones.

Some of those bones tell the tales of mass extinction events including the one 65 million years ago that took with it our beloved dinosaurs, ammonites and all sorts of wonderful creatures.

Not every animal that has ever lived has left traces of their existence for us to find. We find many, yes, but like the flora and fauna of our extant Earthly creatures, we are finding new ones all the time.

One such beastie is a pterosaur, the first of its kind from North America. A recent find of a perfectly preserved Thescelosaurus leg shows the first evidence of its scaly skin.

These are the latest stunning fossils to emerge from Tanis, a remarkable site in North Dakota, which some scientists think captured the first hours following the crash of the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs. The fossil finds are remarkable and controversial for many reasons.

Tanis fossils have been boggling — and sometimes aggravating — scientists since 2019, when they were first reported in The New Yorker rather than in a peer-reviewed paper. The latest discoveries are featured in a BBC documentary hosted by iconic naturalist David Attenborough.