It is believed that 66 million years ago, an asteroid hit the earth, killing off 75% of all plant and animal life. All dinosaurs were wiped out save what would become today’s modern birds. With this sudden die off, it is surprising that until recently there have been no concentrations of fossils found from that event. But this could be changing just outside a small town in New Jersey, where paleontologist are uncovering dinosaur fossils.
The researchers are cautious to jump to conclusions and grand claims, the site does date very close to the time of the mass extinction. “We don’t know yet (if it dates from the mass extinction),” says C Dr. Kenneth Lacovara, who has been the driving force in the excavations of the quarry, “but we are testing this hypothesis by examining the fossils, the sediments and the chemistry.” The mass extinction event is marked by a thin layer of iridium-rich sediment which is an element common in asteroids.
The quarry was mined for almost a century for its marl, a mudstone used in fertilizer and water treatment by the Inversand Company. Just outside of Manua Township, this marl is known for its fossil deposits mostly from marine organisms. When the extinction event occured, ending the Cretaceous period, this area was a shallow tropical sea with lots of fish, sea turtles, crocodiles and even mosasaurs. At the extinction event, these sea inhabitants died off suddenly leaving a massive bone yard.
At the end of last year, Rowan University bought the land from Inversand Company for $2 million with plans to continue excavation and research. If the researches are able to positively date this bone yard to the Cretaceous mass extinction it would be the first and become a very important international fossil site that could lead researchers to determine exactly what happened at the extinction event.
Until that happens the university plans on making the quarry an education center including a museum and education facility to inspire future scientist.