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  • The South American dinosaur Leinkupal laticauda uses its whip-like tail to fend off predators in this illustration provided by Jorge Antonio Gonzalez.

    The South American dinosaur Leinkupal laticauda uses its whip-like tail to fend off predators in this illustration provided by Jorge Antonio Gonzalez. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 March 2016

The meteorite hit Earth on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico over 66 million years ago, and these are the first fragments to be found in South America.

A team of scientists working on the Colombian island of Gorgonilla, near the border with Ecuador, has found traces of the meteorite that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs over 66 million years ago, said media reports Wednesday.

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“(We have) evidence of the impact of the meteorite, (they are very tiny) particles that are the result when the meteorite hit,” geologist Herman Bermudez told Spanish news agency EFE.

Those remains, called spherulites, which are small, rounded bodies that commonly occur in vitreous igneous rocks, are part of the continental shelf material that is currently the Yucatan Peninsula and they were found with fragments of the meteorite.

The spherulites are 2 cm (about 0.8 inches) in diameter and look like marbles, being made of glass. Under the microscope small crystals from the meteorite can be seen and they show its composition.

When the meteorite hit Earth, it blasted out a crater 200 km (125 miles) in diameter known today as Chicxulub, which is on the Yucatan Peninsula.

The impact caused an environmental catastrophe, including gigantic tsunamis, that led to the massive extinction of many species, including the dinosaurs.

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Bermudez said that “the find is unique” because experts worldwide who worked with him “know all the spots in the world where there is evidence of the impact” and said that “they had never seen preservation like this.”

It is still not known precisely why the fragments are in such good shape, but scientists suspect that it is because Gorgonilla “was very deep under the ocean” and only emerged from the waves millions of years later.

These are the first fragments that have been discovered in South America, although fragments of the meteorite have been found in Central and North America.

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