Behind a Lowe’s home improvement store here, scientists are methodically scraping and sifting through a quarry pit that may contain unique insights to the mass extinction that eliminated the dinosaurs.
Back then, about 66 million years ago, the oceans were higher, and this part of southern New Jersey was a shallow sea, 10 to 15 miles offshore from an ancient mountain range that rose from the water. Today’s quarry pit was once the sea bottom, and one particular layer about 40 feet beneath the surface contains a bounty of fossils.
Kenneth J. Lacovara, a professor of paleontology and geology at nearby Rowan University, calls the layer a “mass death assemblage.” He believes it may be the only known collection of animal remains that dates from the mass extinction itself.
It’s just a hypothesis at the moment, and a tough one to prove. Dr. Lacovara and the university, which is to complete its purchase of the quarry this month, have deployed graduate students to meticulously catalog the fossils near in time to the mass extinction.
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