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  • 66 million years ago, our planet was a dramatically different place.

  • In the blink of an eye, an asteroid forever changed life on Earth.

  • This is the mass extinction that wiped out the giant dinosaurs.

  • And then afterwards you have the rise of the mammals includes our own origins before a long time that period after the impact remained a mystery.

  • Now, aided by newly recovered fossils and breakthrough technologies, this team of paleontologists are piecing together the prehistoric puzzle, reconstructing the recovery of our world in unprecedented detail.

  • We're able to digitally hole out each individual element to see how everything is then connected.

  • We're able to really bring these animals back to life.

  • Unlike we've ever been able to do before this technology.

  • You're looking at one of the most complete mammalian fossils ever discovered from the first million years after Earth's fifth mass Extinction.

  • This is lock Salafis from the paleo, seen the period of time immediately after the extinction event that wiped out more than half the species on the planet.

  • It's one of the key pieces to the puzzle of how mammals came to dominate the earth.

  • Paleontologist Tyler Leeson unearthed this fossil in 2016, using a method of discovery that had rarely been used in North America.

  • When I was down in South Africa, they find fossils very differently than the way I was trained here in North America rather than by looking for bones.

  • They look for these concretions and I pick up one of these ugly, nondescript looking concretions.

  • Take my rock hammer and just crack it open and they're looking back at me was a complete mammal skull, and it was just an amazing moment.

  • I called EE and over we started laughing and high fiving celebrating.

  • All of a sudden we went from basically not seeing any fossils to seeing fossils all over the place.

  • Tyler and Ian's Discovery, a Corral Bluffs, Colorado, resulted in a literal mountain of fossils from a crucial moment in our planet's history.

  • It's an interval of time, where many interesting things overlap, right.

  • You have giant dinosaurs, giant volcanoes and space rocks.

  • Fossils unearthed by Tyler and his team come from a time just after the impact, a period we know little about.

  • I would say that the discovery at Krell Bluffs is a huge scientific breakthrough, and it's one of the most critical intervals in Earth's history, the interval when mammals came into prominence.

  • For millions of years, these animals had been living in the shadow of dinosaurs.

  • It wasn't until after the mass extinction that they began to take over.

  • We found thousands of vertebrate fossils going from mere fragments.

  • You're now having thousands of complete fossils.

  • The story is not just about one particular fossil.

  • It's about the evolution and the changing ecosystems.

  • From right after Earth's last mass extinction, the crowd bluffs Discovery paints a picture of a complete ecosystem with everything from plants to mammals the size of pigs and large dogs.

  • Tyler and Ian recover fossils that can help piece together how life rebounded during a critical time in Earth's history.

  • In terms of actually analyzing the fossils that we have found, there have been some major technological breakthroughs that have completely revolutionized the field of paleontology.

  • One of these breakthroughs is computed tomography or simply C T scans.

  • Prior to C T technology and paleontology, we really had to cut open the fossils.

  • We just did not have access to a lot of anatomy without having to destructively sample these precious objects and the C T data allows you to look inside that thing and to say something about the size of its in her nose, its brain.

  • Look at all the different nerve canals and arterial canals.

  • Now you may have heard a CT scanning.

  • It was first developed for medical applications in the 19 seventies, but about a decade later, the technology was adopted by paleontology in the form of micro CT scans to penetrate denser materials like rock and bone.

  • The field hasn't looked back since.

  • Thing is a mammal called Bioko Nadon through all of the teeth.

  • And then back here that is the semi circular canals, the organ of balance.

  • We can compare the angles of the semicircular canals toe that of modern day animals, to figure out where this animal was living.

  • In this case, it seems like this animal was on the ground, sort of lumbering around.

  • We're able to look at the size of the endo, cast in the size of the brain, to get clues at its overall intelligence and then look at the size of the olfactory evolves and the organ for your sense of smell, all things that we weren't able to do.

  • You really 15 years ago.

  • Mhm.

  • Since the discovery of Coral Bluffs, Tyler and his team have looked inside 15 fossils using this technique with plans to scan dozens more as they uncover new concretions preparation and the image ing.

  • And the data analysis is still happening right now.

  • So we're learning stuff almost on a weekly basis as this project moves forward.

  • But imaging the fossils is only part of the story.

  • It's also crucial to know exactly where in the layers of earth each one was found.

  • To truly get the big picture of the discoveries at Coral Bluffs, the team needs a bird's eye view on.

  • So one of the recent advances that's been remarkable for us is using drone technology to really place the fossils very precisely in a stack of vertical rocks.

  • And so we worked with the United States Geological Survey, who has an entire drone team that's pushing the boundaries of this.

  • A whole new bevy of drones have really allowed us to precisely placed these things down to within centimeters of where we picked him up on the ground.

  • The drones are able to capture high resolution X Y and see data by getting data on precise location and elevation, the team is able to accurately place fossils in relation to the Cretaceous Paleo Jean Boundary things.

  • K P G Boundary is a physical remnant from the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.

  • This geological marker can be found all around the world With this boundary as a marker, scientists are able to use the radioactive decay of certain isotopes and the magnetic reversal of the planet toe.

  • Identify time stamps in the rock that helps us put that whole timeline together.

  • Age of the mammals is always on top of the age of the dinosaurs, but the next step is the ability to put the number two that not just say relatively.

  • This is younger or older, because then you're really able to figure out the tempo of evolution and all of these big scientific questions that we're interested in.

  • So building a timeline or what we would call a geo chronological framework in the rocks is critical for us to study evolution, the team is working to accurately date their fossils and trace the first million years immediately after the mass extinction.

  • Ultimately, what we want to do is understand evolution and how we got to the present moment today, being able to place things on the planet precisely to get ultimately to a framework and then being able to peer inside.

  • These things have been huge advances for our field just in the last 10 or so years.

  • And as the team gets closer to fully understanding how mammals not only survived but thrived 66 million years ago, the Work and Corral Bluffs continues.

  • Sometimes it feels like a project like this is finished when you see like a book end, but we're literally just scratching the surface.

  • In fact, just these blast past two weeks we've gone out and found Mawr Concrete's Shins Mawr complete mammal skulls, complete turtle shells.

  • For me, it really has been a renaissance.

  • That's probably the most exciting time it's ever been to be a paleontologist.

  • This is by far the most significant discovery that I've made.

  • Um, simply because it's not just about one single fossil.

  • It's about the entire story.

  • It's the animals, the plants in placing the animals and plants into a ecological context all within time.

66 million years ago, our planet was a dramatically different place.

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B1 mass extinction extinction fossil earth complete mammal

Fossil Hunting Is Entering a New Technological Age

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/29
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