Remains of a plant eating dinosaur from the Smoky Hill Chalk

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Smoky Hill Chalk was deposited near the middle of the Western Interior Sea, hundreds of miles from the nearest coast during the Late Cretaceous (about 87-82 mya).

It is the last place I would ever expect to find a dinosaur. Yet the remains of at least 8 (latest in May, 2007) dinosaurs have been discovered in the Kansas chalk. Contrary to the picture at left, it is unlikely that they simply died along a beach and were carried out to sea by the rising tide.

Far more likely, some unlucky dinosaurs were swept out to sea by rivers during flood stage or other similar scenarios. In some cases, once the dead animal began to decompose in the warm water, enough gas was accumulated within the abdomen to float the carcass.

Prevailing winds and currents would have eventually carried some of these bloated remains hundreds of miles from shore, and over what is now western Kansas. Scavenged by sharks or just falling apart, the remains eventually dropped to the sea floor and were preserved in the chalk along with the skeletons of marine animals.

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