Photographers shoot fossilized footprints at a geological park in Yanqing County, Beijing on January 9, 2012. Paleontologists said that several hundred fossilized footprints unearthed in the suburb park were those of dinosaurs. The footprints were left by dinosaurs that lived some 140 to 150 million years ago in the late Jurassic period, said Zhang Jianping, researcher at the China University of Geosciences. They are the first dinosaur traces the city has found, according to Zhang.
Xinhua/Zhang Yu

Paleontologists say several hundred fossilized footprints in a Beijing suburb are those of dinosaurs. The footprints, unearthed in a geological park in Yanqing county, are the first dinosaur traces the city has found, according to Zhang Jianping, researcher at the China University of Geosciences.
They were left by dinosaurs that lived some 140 to 150 million years ago in the late Jurassic period, said Zhang.

A group of scientists from Zhang’s university first discovered the footprints in July 2011 in the Guihuamu Geological Park, which is known for its concentration of petrified ancient woods.

In one spot where most of the footprints are concentrated, the paleontologists counted several hundred footprints as well as seven to eight lines formed by consecutive steps.
Thyreophoras, theropods, ornithopods, and probably sauropods are believed to have left the footprints. The discovery will benefit the study of China’s dinosaur categories at late Jurassic and early Cretaceous periods, Zhang said.

“It’s the first time China has found thyreophora, ornithopod, and sauropod footprints of that period, which provides us with more knowledge on how such species spread across China,” said Zhang.

Meanwhile,New findings suggest that a prehistoric asteroid collision is not solely responsible for wiping out the dinosaur population in northeast Asia 65 million years ago.
Scientists now claim that the end of the long-gone reptile’s reign in some regions of northeast Asia can be linked to several other factors, including volcanic eruption, climate change and drops in sea level.

A new China-led study by 30 scientists from eight different countries has yielded powerful evidence challenging the dominant, decades-old scientific theory that dinosaurs were wiped out after an asteroid collided with the earth.

The study was made public during an ongoing seminar of geology and paleontology in Jiayin, a county in northeastern Heilongjiang Province, where scientists have found fossils of dinosaurs living just before the species’ sudden demise.

The scientists, including experts from Russia, the U.S., Germany, Belgium, Britain, Japan and the Republic of Korea, were led by Sun Ge of Jilin University in northeast China. Together, they have spent the past ten years studying the extinction of dinosaurs.

The study showed that in Jiayin the K-T boundary, the geologic boundary between the rocks of the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, does not contain high-levels of iridium, a radioactive element that linked an asteroid strike to the extinction of dinosaurs.

The asteroid theory has dominated dinosaur studies for several decades after scientists found high-levels of iridium in the K-T boundaries in North America and other regions. The element is rare on Earth, but found in extraterrestrial objects, including asteroids, according to Sun Ge.

Fossilized dinosaur remains
 Xinhua/Zhang Yu
Among conflicting and controversial hypotheses explaining dinosaur extinction, the asteroid theory is the only one that has been proven by scientific evidence and is universally recognized by scientists, Sun said.

Scientists believe a giant asteroid that hit the earth about 65 million years ago sealed the fate of dinosaurs forever by throwing up gusts of dust or chemical clouds that blocked sunlight from reaching the planet, or by igniting global wildfires.

However, the new study suggests that volcanic activities around that time greatly impacted the environment of the Jiayin area and could be to blame for the species’ extinction.

Geologic features of and around the K-T boundary in Jiayin are identical to those of and around the same layer in Russian regions of Siberia and the Far East, said Sun Ge.

Regions in northeast Asia had similar geographic environments 65 million years ago, where volcanic eruption, climate cooling and up to 100-meter drops in sea-level might have been the major factors that wiped out the dinosaurs, said Akhmetiev M, a Russian geologist who participated in the program.

According to Sun, the world’s 105 sections of K-T boundary suggest a mega-wipeout 65 million years ago that destroyed over 70 percent of all the earth’s species, including the dinosaurs.

The extinction of dinosaurs was caused by different factors in different regions, and an asteroid is not the only reason, Sun said.

Meanwhile,Dinosaur footprints near the proposed multi-billion dollar Kimberley gas hub in Western Australia (WA) will be examined by Canadian and U.S. paleontologists, local media reported on Thursday.

The dinosaur footprints are embedded in rock close to where the state and federal governments want to build a 35 billion AU dollars (35.85 billion U.S. dollars) liquefied natural gas (LNG) precinct north of Broome, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

The two specialists are Dr. Martin Lockley, professor of geology at the University of Colorado in Denver, and Richard McCrea, curator of the Peace Region Paleontology Research Center in Canada.

Within two weeks, they will conduct fresh studies of the site to establish how important the prints are after a previous study found they were not of “museum quality”.
WA Department of State Development Deputy Director Nicky Cusworth says she does not expect any discoveries that could derail the development.
“We hope the new survey improves our understanding of the dinosaur footprint issues and the best approach to managing, and minimizing the impact of the precinct on valuable fossil records,” she said.

Australian Queensland paleontologist Steve Salisbury, who has carried out recent research at the James Price Point site, believes the new study will show the dinosaur prints and the gas hub can not co-exist.
“I am pretty sure that if they’ve seen what we’ve seen up in that area then the Department of State Development and the state government are in for a bit of a surprise,” he told ABC Radio.

Meanwhile,Chinese and Japanese scientists have announced the discovery of a new dinosaur species in the eastern province of Zhejiang, 13 years after the prehistoric creature’s skeleton was unearthed during highway construction.
The dinosaur is a new species of Ornithischians, also known as “bird-hipped” dinosaurs because of their bird-like hip structure. They lived in the Cretaceous period about 100 million years ago.

Scientists made their conclusion after more than three years of intensive study of a partial but well-preserved skeleton, said Zheng Wenjie, a geoscientist with the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, where the skeleton has been preserved since it was discovered during construction of a highway in 1998 in Tiantai county, eastern Zhejiang province.
They named the new species “Yueosaurus Tiantaiensis”, or “Tiantai Yue Dinosaur” in Chinese, as it was discovered in the present-day Tiantai county and the region used to be the territory of the ancient State of Yue during the Spring and Autumn Period over 2,500 years ago, according to Zheng.

The new species represents the southernmost basal ornithopod dinosaur from Asia, also the first one from southeastern China, according to the paper written by Zheng and his four co-researchers, two from China and two from Japan.
The paper was published this month by British magazine Cretaceous Research and the two Japanese scientists, Masateru Shibata and Yoichi Azuma, are from the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum.

Ornithopods are a group of ornithischian dinosaurs that started out as small, bipedal running grazers, and grew in size and numbers until they became one of the most successful groups of herbivores in the Cretaceous world.
Though the species dominated the North American landscape, they were rare in Asia.
Before Yueosaurus, only four Ornithopod species had been found in Asia - in northeastern China’s Liaoning and Jilin provinces, the Republic of Korea and Mongolia.
The beaked, herbivorous creature, only 1.5 meters long and one meter tall, is the smallest dinosaur ever found in the province, according to Zheng.

“They were great runners. They are really small, so they had to run away fast from those ferocious meat-eating dinosaurs,” Zheng said.
Latest research has showed that some of them even burrowed and lived in holes in the ground, he added.

Zhejiang boasts vast areas of land rich in dinosaur and dinosaur egg fossils. Four new dinosaur species, three herbivorous and one carnivorous, had been discovered in the province before Yueosaurus, according the museum, which is located in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang.

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