By William J. Broad and Kenneth Chang
Sixty-six million years ago, a giant meteor slammed into Earth off the coast of modern-day Mexico. Firestorms incinerated the landscape for miles around. Even creatures thousands of miles away were doomed on that fateful day, if not by fire and brimstone, then by mega-earthquakes and waves of unimaginable size.
Now, scientists have unearthed a remarkable trove of fossils that appear to date from the very day of the impact. The burial site consists of more than four feet of sediments and organic remains that were dumped in North Dakota almost instantly and transformed into rock over the eons. It evidently captures, in unparalleled detail, the repercussions of the giant doomsday rock that cleared the way for the evolution of mammals, including the primates known as humans.
In an article made available to reporters Friday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a leading science journal, an international team of 12 scientists described a dig near Bowman, N.D., that encapsulated the swift demise of an ancient lake and its inhabitants.
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