the mind-blowing prehistoric battle encapsulated in a newly discovered fossil

  • 28

Dinosaur remains rarely contain more than their fossilized bones. However, a specimen found in 1999 in the United States is opening new ways to understand what was beyond the bone of these animals.


The fossil belongs to the genus known as Edmontosaurus, which encompasses two species of dinosaurs that lived in the late Cretaceous period. It is an incomplete fossil, its skull and some other fragments were not found; but that has unusual elements in its class: soft tissues of the dinosaur.

The history of Dakota, the name by which this fossil is known, began in 1999, when a paleontology student, Tyler Lyson, ran into him near Marmarth, in the state of North Dakota. For years the fossil remained in oblivion until its excavation half a decade later. In 2008, between hype and saucer, and not without some controversythe fossil was released to the world.

Findings like Dakota’s they are rare since the skin and muscle tend to decompose quickly and without giving rise to the beginning of the fossilization process. To the rare cases where paleontologists stumble upon these fossils They call them “mummies”. Now thanks to the remains of Dakota, a team of American researchers has managed to unravel what this mummification process is like. The results of the research have been published in a article in the magazine PLOS ONE.

We have discovered a new species of dinosaur: this time it does not have feathers, but an amazing one "armor"

“The bite marks were really unexpected. Soft tissues were thought not to be preserved if they were damaged before they were buried, so it was the damage done by carnivores that got us thinking about how these fossils formed.” Stephanie Drumheller, who heads the publicationin statements collected by the chain CNN.

It is a rare find, as another of the study’s co-authors, Clint Boyd, contextualized in the same medium “I have found thousands of fossils in my career, but only one of them preserved skin impressions (an imprint of the skin , not the preserved skin itself) and I have never found one myself that had preserved skin.”

Now, thanks to the work of Drumheller, Boyd, and their fellow researchers, we better understand the process through which the skin of the dinosaurs could be preservedeven damaged. According to the study, it was the perforation of the skin caused by the wounds that led to the mummification of the dinosaur.

Once the animal is dead, the gases and liquids released when decomposing the internal tissues were able to escape through the bite, which led to a natural mummification process of the dinosaur. Thus it was possible for the dinosaur’s body to endure until the moment it was buried.

The unhappy circumstance of the animal has ended up resulting in an exceptional opportunity for researchers. The discoveries made thanks to this fossil are not limited to the mummification process, but have also allowed paleontologists to learn more about the pattern of scales along the body of the Edmontosaurus, plus valuable information about your muscle mass. It is also thanks to Dakota that we know that the forelimbs of this animal ended in a kind of hoof that covered his digits.

Another curious feature of the fossil is its color of metallic tints and bluish. The truth is that we know little about the color that the dinosaurs had. We know that some had feathers of various colors, but nothing on their scales. The researchers suspect that the coloration of the fossil is not inherited from the appearance of the Edmontosaurus, but rather was caused by the iron content of the surrounding rocks during the fossilization process.

Color is not the only mystery that still remains to be solved. Dakota’s injuries are another one. It is not known exactly what species the animal that caused them belonged to, although they seem to have been caused by some kind of cretaceous crocodile. It is also not known what wounds could have been made during the life of the dinosaur and which would have been by scavenging animals after their death.

Dinosaurs are fascinating animals. Due to their distance in time, studying them is a complex task and we have often had to resort to the imagination to try to guess what they were like. However, nature still hides new clues that allow us to fill in these gaps not with imagination, but with analysis. Perhaps new “mummies” can give us new clues about these creatures so present in the popular imagination.

Image | Reconstruction of Edmontosaurus / Dakota Fossil. Reconstruction by Natee Puttapipat CC BY 4.0

Dinosaur remains rarely contain more than their fossilized bones. However, a specimen found in 1999 in the United States is…

Dinosaur remains rarely contain more than their fossilized bones. However, a specimen found in 1999 in the United States is…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.