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Flaming Cliffs

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Flaming Cliffs

The Protoceratops/Velociraptor fossil (Wikimedia Commons)

Name:

Flaming Cliffs

Location:

Mongolia

Date of Fossil Sediments:

Late Cretaceous (85 million years ago)

Dinosaurs Found:

Protoceratops, Oviraptor, Velociraptor, Therizinosaurus

About Flaming Cliffs:

Not all parts of the world had substantially different climates 85 million years ago than they do today. In the late Cretaceous period, for example, Antarctica was much more temperate than it is now, but Mongolia's Gobi Desert seems to have been as hot, dry and brutal as it's always been. We know this from the fact that so many of the dinosaur fossils unearthed at the Flaming Cliffs formation appear to have been buried in sudden sandstorms, and that very few large dinosaurs (which would have needed equally large amounts of vegetation to survive) lived here.

Flaming Cliffs was discovered in 1922 by the buccaneering explorer Roy Chapman Andrews, who made one of paleontology's enduring mistakes when he accused Oviraptor of stealing eggs belonging to Protoceratops (it was determined, decades later, that the Oviraptor specimen had been guarding its own eggs). This site is also close to the region where researchers unearthed the tangled remains of a Protoceratops and a Velociraptor, which appear to have been locked in a death struggle at the time of their sudden demise. When dinosaurs died at Flaming Cliffs, they died quickly: burial by fierce sandstorms is the only way to account for the discovery of this dinosaur pair (as well as numerous, articulated Protoceratops skeletons found standing in the upright position).

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