Living alongside some increasingly diverse pterosaurs and primitive mammal-like critters, these bird-like beasts with their colorful plumage and varying ability to glide were a preview of the dinosaurs that would survive the incoming global catastrophe – one that would kill off up to 75 percent of life on Earth.
A recent study documented that dinosaurs were in decline for about 50 million years before the asteroid hit. The number of new species appearing on the world stage was being gradually eclipsed by the number that were becoming extinct, and some have argued that they were destined to die even before the giant space rock finished them off.
However, the complex mixture of physical characteristics displayed by T. limosus reveals that, at least in some pockets of the world, dinosaurian lineages were continuing to flourish and diversify at breakneck speed. This so-called Muddy Dragon, then, represented one of the very last examples of dinosaur evolution before they were wiped off the face of the Earth.
It’s lucky that dinosaurs appeared to be fairly clumsy. This one probably died by tripping over and falling into some mud, which preserved it rather spectacularly.
Another dinosaur – an Iguanodon – fell into an acidic swamp millions of years earlier, which resulted in its brain being pickled and conserved long enough for researchers to stumble across it. Thanks to this series of unfortunate events back in the Cretaceous, the world now has its first fossilized dinosaur brain.
The location of the fossil site. Lu et al./Scientific Reports