We Cubans also had Our Dinosaurs!

We are now speaking about the fossil remains of a Pterosaur found in Cienfuegos. In fact, it’s not a dinosaur but a large flying reptile as those of Jurassic Park.

Of course when those giant creatures walked or flew on Earth, this island didn't exist neither Cubans. It had been like that, we either tamed them or we ate them, I say.

But the truth is that hardly a few days ago were discovered in Cienfuegos, more accurately south of Rodas, in the so-called Paleontological Damují Region, small fragments of fossilized bones that confirm the presence of vertebrates in the silts of rocks from the Higher Cretaceous.

But researcher Carlos Rafael Borges Sellén was not satisfied with carrying out the discovery. It was necessary to know how old the vertebrate was.

Experts on the subject had suggested him that it could be a flying reptile. As for the geologic age of the remains -as Sellén referred to Granma newspaper-, Doctor Reinaldo Rojas Consuegra, after visiting the site ratified him that it was the Higher Cretaceous.

The puzzle was building up. That flying reptile could be a Pterosaur and thus was confirmed by specialists from other countries consulted by Sellén.

These frightening animals, recreated in movies and cartoons, lived since the end of the Triassic Era, about 205 million years ago, until the end of the Cretaceous, when they went extinct, 65 million years ago.

Although sometimes called flying dinosaurs, they were not actually dinosaurs, but they cohabited with them and they are almost always represented accompanying them. Where there are no mistakes is that they were the first vertebrates in conquering skies, around the Mesozoic Era.

They had a truly terrifying look. Of huge size, some had needle-like teeth standing out of a small hard beak that didn't cover them. They were adorned with large crests, usually shaped by keratin extensions.

Although they had wings made up of membranes with muscles and skin, as they were also plantigrades they walked and ran as any other animal. That skill got lost in time and became the direct ancestors of birds as we know them today.

Despite their looks, those animals ate fish. They fished them flying close to the sea surface. A shark tooth was found in the neck vertebras of the fossil of one of these Pterosaurs, from the gender Pteranodon, indicate that maybe they were a bit silly, or that the sharks were also fast.

Looking at Paleographic Maps of the Jurassic, in the space geographical occupied by Cuba, in the eastern Caribbean, it seems that giant sea reptiles inhabited, oceanic crocodiles and also flying reptiles like the Pterosaur.

In the land ecosystems off the coasts of the primitive Caribbean dinosaurs were frequent, and according with statements to Juventud Rebelde doctor Manuel Iturralde-Vinent, the first report of fossil remains of dinosaurs in Cuba dates of 1949, when Alfredo de la Torre y Callejas reported the finding of a bone 45 centimeters long near the valley of Viñales.

Well, the case is that although hundreds of fossils of Pterosaurs have been found in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America, it’s the first time that is discovered in this Caribbean island a fossil of those animals.

The fine weather in this side of the planet and mainly beaches, we might get lucky and Spielberg decides to shoot a sixth film of Jurassic Park here.

Dinosaur asteroid hit 'worst possible place'

Scientists who drilled into the impact crater associated with the demise of the dinosaurs summarise their findings so far in a BBC Two documentary on Monday.

The researchers recovered rocks from under the Gulf of Mexico that were hit by an asteroid 66 million years ago.

The nature of this material records the details of the event.

It is becoming clear that the 15km-wide asteroid could not have hit a worse place on Earth.

https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/CA49/production/_96058715_bm_bm_eotd_02738308.jpgThe drill rig was on station in the Gulf in April and May last year / BARCROFT PRODUCTIONS/BBC

The shallow sea covering the target site meant colossal volumes of sulphur (from the mineral gypsum) were injected into the atmosphere, extending the "global winter" period that followed the immediate firestorm.

Had the asteroid struck a different location, the outcome might have been very different.

"This is where we get to the great irony of the story – because in the end it wasn’t the size of the asteroid, the scale of blast, or even its global reach that made dinosaurs extinct – it was where the impact happened," said Ben Garrod, who presents The Day The Dinosaurs Died with Alice Roberts.

https://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/5901/production/_96058722_bm_bm_eotd_02738320.jpgThe fractured rocks were subjected to immense pressures / BARCROFT PRODUCTIONS/BBC

"Had the asteroid struck a few moments earlier or later, rather than hitting shallow coastal waters it might have hit deep ocean.

"An impact in the nearby Atlantic or Pacific oceans would have meant much less vaporised rock – including the deadly gypsum. The cloud would have been less dense and sunlight could still have reached the planet’s surface, meaning what happened next might have been avoided.

"In this cold, dark world food ran out of the oceans within a week and shortly after on land. With nothing to eat anywhere on the planet, the mighty dinosaurs stood little chance of survival."

Ben Garrod spent time on the drill rig that was stationed 30km off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula in April/May last year, to better understand the aims of the project; Alice Roberts visited widely separated fossil beds in the Americas, to get a sense of how life was upended by the impact.

Rock cores from up to 1,300m beneath the Gulf were recovered.

The lowest sections of this material come from a feature within the crater called the peak ring.

This is made from rock that has been heavily fractured and altered by immense pressures.

By analysing its properties, the drill project team - led by Profs Jo Morgan and Sean Gulick - hope to reconstruct how the impact proceeded and the environmental changes it brought about.

Chicxulub Crater - The impact that changed life on Earth

  • A 15km-wide object dug a hole in Earth's crust 100km across and 30km deep
  • This bowl then collapsed, leaving a crater 200km across and a few km deep
  • The crater's centre rebounded and collapsed again, producing an inner ring
  • Today, much of the crater is buried offshore, under 600m of sediments
  • On land, it is covered by limestone, but its rim is traced by an arc of sinkholes
  • They know now the energy that went into making the crater when the asteroid struck - equivalent to 10 billion Hiroshima A-bombs. And they also understand how the depression assumed the structure we observe today.

    The team is also gaining insights into the return of life to the impact site in the years after the event.

    One of the many fascinating sequences in the BBC Two programme sees Alice Roberts visit a quarry in New Jersey, US, where 25,000 fossil fragments have been recovered - evidence of a mass die-off of creatures that may have been among the casualties on the day of the impact itself.

    "All these fossils occur in a layer no more than 10cm thick," palaeontologist Ken Lacovara tells Alice.

    "They died suddenly and were buried quickly. It tells us this is a moment in geological time. That's days, weeks, maybe months. But this is not thousands of years; it's not hundreds of thousands of years. This is essentially an instantaneous event."

    The Day The Dinosaurs Died is on BBC Two at 21:00, after which it will be available on the BBC iPlayer.

Jurassic fossils reveal varied life of early mammals

In the days of the Jurassic, dinosaurs ruled the Earth, while early mammals cowered in their shadows. That used to be the idea. Two remarkably preserved fossils from China now reveal that there was a surprising diversity among early mammals.

Subscribe to this RSS feed