There are thousands of dinosaur fossils. Currently, thanks to the amount of remains found, there are already more than a thousand identified species of Mesozoic dinosaurs . But most of them are remains of very low quality, just bone fragments and loose teeth. However, some copies are good.
Exceptionally good. Truly impressive fossils .
5. Cubs in their nest
In 2011, paleontologist David Fastovsky and his team described a remarkable discovery in Mongolia. It is the fossil of a complete nest, about 70 cm in diameter, but unlike most dinosaur nests, which contain eggs, in this one we find puppies. Fifteen Protoceratops pup skeletons , fully articulated, with all skulls in the same orientation. Ten of them were complete. All in the same period of physical maturity, and probably belonging to the same litter .
The relatively large size of the individuals and the advanced stage of development indicated to the researchers that perhaps the juvenile Protoceratops remained in the nest for a long time after hatching and, therefore, that there was parental care and some sociability. .
Everything seems to indicate that the pups were buried under a dune during a sand storm , a relatively common phenomenon in the great desert that dominated the Central Asian craton during the Cretaceous.
4. Trapped in Amber
In December 2016, a revolutionary discovery in the world of paleontology went around the world. In Myanmar (Burma) a fragment of amber had just been found that contained something more than the usual insects, arachnids and plant remains. Embedded in the fossilized resin rested, slightly curved, the tail of a dinosaur .
The researchers identified the owner of the tail as a member of the Coelurosauria , a group that includes theropods as well known as Compsognathus , Tyrannosaurus or Velociraptor . In this fossil of just 37 mm in length , the internal skeleton, remains of soft tissues and the cover of feathers are preserved . They were even able to analyze fossilized blood. But the most striking thing about this fossil is that instead of observing the flattened feathers that we find in rocky fossils, in this one they could be studied in three dimensions, just as they were arranged in the animal in life.
Among other conclusions, their study allowed us to infer, comparing it with other coelurosaur fossil remains, that this group had an enormous variability of plumage , much more than previously thought.
3. A nap of millions of years
In 2017, the discovery of what was described as the best preserved dinosaur in history was published. This is not true, since they are partial and fragmented remains, and there are some other much better preserved dinosaurs —such as those seen in point 2 and 1 of this list—, however, it can be considered a fossil of exceptional conservation. . It was found in an open pit at the Suncor Millennium mine in Alberta, Canada.
In this case we find slightly less than the anterior half of the body of a dinosaur named Borealopelta , belonging to the Nodosauridae group, which is characterized by having its back completely armored by bony plates called osteoderms . The skeleton is appreciated, all the osteoderms of the preserved area, and all the scales and the skin under them have also been preserved . The appearance of the fossil is as if the dinosaur was still asleep, resting on its bedrock. It can be visited at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta.
2. A fight to the death
We already know that in the Cretaceous, Central Asia was dominated by a huge desert that has provided us with a large number of high-quality fossils. Of all of them, the most impressive shows a fight scene that was preserved in time until today. Currently, this fossil is considered a national treasure in Mongolia.
The scene discovered in 1971 is brutal. A mighty Protoceratops lunges and bites with its beak on its right wing at a light and graceful Velociraptor , which in turn latches onto the skull with its free wing and rips open the neck and abdomen with the huge claws of its hind legs . A fight from which it is not clear who would have been the winner, but which ended with the two specimens being buried suddenly. It is an almost completely preserved fossil , except for some parts of the herbivore, which were probably eaten by scavengers.
1. A fossil that makes history
Since the publication of The Origin of Species , by Charles Darwin, one of the main criticisms it has received has been the absence of fossils of intermediate forms . On the other hand, the origin of birds turned out to be a difficult enigma to unravel and the reason for many discussions. But in 1877 a unique fossil was discovered . The so-called Archeopteryx of Berlin. You can visit it at the Natural History Museum in the German capital.
After the discovery of this specimen, Thomas Henry Huxley , nicknamed “Darwin’s bulldog”, was the first to propose the existence of an evolutionary relationship between birds and dinosaurs . But this hypothesis collided head-on with the opinions of the most important paleontologist of his time, Sir Richard Owen.
Since then, many other hypotheses have emerged on the subject, none fully convincing. But the discovery of Deinonychus in the 1960s, the application of cladistics – the classification of living things based on their evolutionary relationships – to dinosaurs, and the discoveries of feathered dinosaurs in recent decades have ended up showing who was right about all this discussion. Something that Huxley’s brilliant mind was able to glimpse from analyzing this magnificent specimen.
And it is thanks to this Archeopteryx not only did it solve the problem of intermediate forms in the fossil record for the first time, but it was the starting point that led us to discover that birds are, in fact, dinosaurs .
Barsbold, R. 2016. “The Fighting Dinosaurs”: The position of their bodies before and after death. Paleontological Journal, 50(12), 1412-1417. DOI: 10.1134/S0031030116120042Brown, C. M. et al. 2017. An Exceptionally Preserved Three-Dimensional Armored Dinosaur Reveals Insights into Coloration and Cretaceous Predator-Prey Dynamics. Current Biology, 27(16), 2514-2521.e3. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.06.071Fastovsky, D. E. et al. 2011. A nest of Protoceratops andrewsi (Dinosauria, Ornithischia). Journal of Paleontology, 85(6), 1035-1041. DOI: 10.1666/11-008.1Gascó Lluna, F. 2021. Eso no estaba en mi libro de Historia de los Dinosaurios. Guadalmazán.Xing, L. et al. 2016. A Feathered Dinosaur Tail with Primitive Plumage Trapped in Mid-Cretaceous Amber. Current Biology, 26(24), 3352-3360. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.10.008