The well-preservered dinosaur mummy of a nodosaur, an armored, horned plant-eating dinosaur, was discovered in the Millennium Mine, in Drumheller, Alberta. The discovery actually took place six years ago, in 2011, however, it just recently went on display at Drumheller’s Royal Tyrrell Museum. Its fierce glare, appearing to defy any potential predator right up to the end, and perfectly preserved armor, will give visitors to the museum a glimpse of what its life must have been like when it was alive, 119 million years ago.
The New York Times reported that it is not known how the land-dwelling nodosaur died, but it became a dinosaur mummy found in Alberta’s oil sands. The land where the animal died became the bottom of an ancient sea. Minerals in the sea helped preserve the gut contents of the nodosaur, according to UPI. The area of Alberta where the fossilized nodosaur was discovered is known for past finds of fossilized marine dinosaurs.
Scientists considered the dinosaur mummy, when it was found in 2011, the best-preserved specimen of its kind. The nodosaur’s skin and even the contents of its stomach are intact, though fossilized.
Dr. Don Brinkman, who is the director of preservation and research at the museum in Drumheller, Alberta, where the dinosaur mummy has gone on display, said that a shovel operator at Suncor’s Millennium Mine, Shawn Funk, saw a block of what looked like stone with an odd diamond pattern on it. The discovery pushed him to contact a geologist. Brinkman said that was when they went to the mine and collected the fossilized nodosaur, which weighed an estimated 3,000 pounds and was nearly 18 feet long when it was alive.
The dinosaur mummy of the nodosaur is likely the oldest fossil yet discovered in Alberta. Mining operations in Alberta excavate “Thousands of cubic meters of soil, gravel and bedrock” annually in the Canadian province, which has led to so many specimens of fossilized dinosaurs discovered there.
National Geographic reported, when the dinosaur mummy was discovered, the bottom part of it was missing, “from the hips down.” Scientists who have studied the mummified nodosaur believe it was likely fossilized entirely intact, though they are not sure what happened to its bottom part. Still, it is the most intact and complete fossil of its type ever discovered.
The dinosaur mummy of the nodosaur has given paleontologists new information about the armor of nodosaurs and their coloration. Usually, the plates of armor, or osteoderms, of nodosaurs get scattered about as the animal decayed after death, but with the fossilized example found in Alberta, the plates of armor were preserved. Even traces of some of the nodosaur’s scales, between the plates, were preserved.
A paleontologist from the University of Bristol in the UK, Jakob Vinther, is attempting to reconstruct the distribution of pigment that still exists and can be seen on the dinosaur mummy. Vinther is an expert on animal coloration. Red pigments on the nodosaur’s skin have been detected through the use of chemical tests. The well-preserved dinosaur mummy, according to the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s fossil preservator, Mark Mitchell, is expected to take paleontolgists “years or maybe decades” to fully understand it.
Mining has been “a boon to paleontologists” in the province of Alberta. Dr. Brinkman said that excavators at mines were not afraid to call up paleontologists at the museum whenever they made a find of dinosaur fossils, because the Royal Tyrrell Museum was careful to not interfere with indusrial activity when they removed the dinosaur remains. Brinkman stated that the museum was able to “get two or three significant specimens” annually through the museum’s cooperation with mines in Alberta.
On Friday, the well-preserved dinosaur mummy went on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. As a tribute to how the museum often gets dinosaur fossils through industrial work, the dinosaur mummy of the nodosaur is a part of the museum’s new Grounds for Discovery exhibit. Andrew Neuman, the museum’s executive director, said i that the new exhibit is intended to highlight “the results of this collaborative approach to heritage preservation.”
By John Samuels
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