Tech UPTechnologyDinosaur fossil with skin still found in Canada

Dinosaur fossil with skin still found in Canada

In 2019, several institutions came together to promote fieldwork in the Alberta Dinosaur Provincial Park, in Canada. The University of Reading (England), the University of New England (Australia) and the Royal Tyrrell Museum (Canada) planned these explorations to be carried out by paleontology students. The pandemic caused by COVID-19 delayed the matter a bit, but in 2021 the first group of students was deployed on the ground. One of the components detected that part of a fossil protruded from a rocky slope. To the surprise of all those present, not only had fossilized bones been found, but also skin impressions were preserved, an exceptional find since less than one percent of the fossils found bear traces of their skin.

an unusual surprise

Upon closer observation, researchers Brian Pickles and Caleb Brown claimed they were looking at the fossil remains of a hadrosaur , the family of ornithopods known as “duck-billed dinosaurs.” Specifically, parts of the tail and a leg emerge from the rock formation, in which the remains of fossilized skin can be seen.

Hadrosaurs were late Cretaceous herbivores that spread throughout much of the world, in the current continents of Asia, Europe, South America, Antarctica and, of course, North America, as this new specimen continues to testify. The discovered fossil is dated to approximately 75 million years . Although we have a rich fossil record of duck-billed dinosaurs, this new find is special for several reasons.

A complete fossil?

Based on the position of the hadrosaur’s tail and hind leg, it is understood that the rest of the body is oriented towards the interior of the hill , so paleontologists have high hopes for this fossil, which could preserve the entire skeleton under the microscope. rock yet to be excavated.

The high expectations are not unfounded, because if it has been able to preserve even the skin, a very rare element in fossils given its condition of soft matter and susceptible to complete decomposition, it is logical to think that the bones have been able to fossilize in its entirety. . Above all, they hope to be able to extract the skull of the fossil from the rock, an essential element to detect the specific species of hadrosaur to which the remains belong.

On the other hand, the size of the tail and the leg indicate that they are dealing with a smaller specimen, so it could be a young individual . This particularity, together with the exceptional level of conservation, can provide unique information about hadrosaurs, their physiognomy and the development of growth in these extinct animals.

a fossil mine

The Provincial Dinosaur Park stands out as one of the richest paleontological sites in the world. Located in the Canadian province of Alberta, it has more than seventy square kilometers in which more than forty species of dinosaurs have been found that lived during the Upper Cretaceous, between 77 and 75 million years ago.

More than a hundred years have passed since the first expeditions began in search of fossils in this area. UNESCO declared the site a World Heritage Site in 1979 and, since the mid-1980s, all fossils discovered have gone to the Royal Tyrrell Museum , built 100 kilometers from the site to preserve, study and display the remains.

These Canadian hills do not stop giving away new surprises like this young hadrosaur. According to experts, the exceptional level of conservation of this fossil could be due to the fact that the dinosaur was buried less than two days after its death.

However, this speed of burial 75 million years ago contrasts with the long work that experts have ahead of them . The recovery work on the fossil has begun, covering the exposed remains with plaster and wood to protect them from the elements. Experts predict months or even years of patient work to extract the entire fossil, as they will start digging from the top of the hill where the fossil is found. We’ll keep an eye on what they’re about to pull out of those rocks.

Reference:

Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology. 2022. Skin Deep: How a Unique Fossil Find Brought Together an International Team. royaltyrrellmuseum.wpcomstaging.com.

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