When Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79 it left behind a mass graveyard of people, suspended in animation for all time beneath the ashes of Pompeii and Herculaneum, etc. Now a study led by Baoyu Jiang of Nanjing University in China believes that a similar catastrophic event millions of years ago was responsible for entombing an ancient ecosystem known as the Jehol Biota in a mass grave within the Juifotang and Yixian rock formations in northern China.
The area has proved to be a relative “goldmine” of fossils for feathered dinosaurs, as well as pterosaurs, neoceratopsians, therizinosaurs, tyrannosaurs, and oviraptorids, not to mention ancient shrimps, frogs, salamanders, turtles, mammals, fish, and spiders (to name just a few) that lived there some 120 million to 130 million years ago. The area is also known for ia great diversity of early birds from the Mezozoic era.
In fact, the fossils are so well preserved that many include evidence of soft tissues, color patterns on the skin, and even the contents of the animals’ stomachs.
"What we're talking about in this case is literal charring, like somebody got put them on the grill and fried them," stated Jiang’s colleague, George Harlow, a mineralogist at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History, who played a major role in analyzing the volcanic rock and sediment that encased the Cretaceous creatures.