Discovering a dinosaur fossil with preserved delicate tissue is extremely uncommon, so when a group of researchers in Alberta, Canada, unearthed a hadrosaur — a duck-billed herbivorous dinosaur — with not solely a near-complete skeleton but additionally with patches of pebbly-textured pores and skin nonetheless intact, they knew that they had stumbled upon a once-in-a-lifetime discovery.
“I’ve by no means seen something prefer it,” Brian J. Pickles, an affiliate professor of ecology on the College of Studying in the UK, who was scouting the realm with a few of his college students, advised Reside Science.
When he caught his first glimpse of the fossil, he “was fully blown away.”
Measuring 13 toes (4 meters) in size, the specimen died roughly 76 million years in the past whereas roaming what was as soon as a fancy river system that crisscrossed the panorama in the course of the Cretaceous interval (145 to 66 million years in the past). Right this moment, that very same space is called Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Website that’s acknowledged as a hotbed of dinosaur fossils. Some 400 to 500 dinosaur skeletons or skulls have been discovered within the space, in keeping with CBC/Radio Canada (opens in new tab), Canada’s nationwide public broadcasting station.
Pickles suspects that the abundance of sandstone and silt overlaying the fossils is what helped with their impeccable preservation; the skeleton contains “a giant chunk of the tail and one among its hind limbs on the floor of the rock, which is beginning to come out,” he mentioned.
“I feel [the specimen] was lined fairly shortly, in any other case it would not be this properly preserved,” Pickles defined. “You may see a few of its vertebrae and tendons, and when you get nearer, you may see a few of its scales. The darkish, scaly pores and skin has a basketball-like texture. That is one thing actually particular; you do not discover issues like this fairly often out within the area.”
Associated: What shade have been the dinosaurs?
An grownup hadrosaurs is often at the least twice the dimensions of this explicit specimen. That means the newly found hadrosaur was a juvenile, which provides an extra layer of intrigue to the invention.
“It is uncommon to seek out juvenile fossils,” Pickles mentioned, “as a result of sometimes dinosaurs develop fairly shortly, and we normally discover the stays of adults.”
Pickles advised Reside Science that Teri Kaskie, an environmental specialist and a volunteer member of the excavation group, “got here throughout the fossils by likelihood” final August when she noticed a number of the bones poking out from the hillside. This 12 months, Pickles and several other of his college students from the college returned to Canada to excavate the remainder of the dinosaur, a prolonged course of that might require yet another area session subsequent summer time to finish. And whereas the researchers suspect that an intact hadrosaur skeleton lies buried within the rocky matrix, it will not be potential to substantiate that till their work is completed.
“To date, we have eliminated 100 imperial tons [112 tons] of rocks, which we name overburden, to get to the fossils,” Pickles mentioned. “We predict the entire [skeleton] is there however we can’t know for positive till we full the excavation.”
Finally, the hadrosaur will find yourself as a part of the everlasting assortment on the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, a city positioned to the northeast of Calgary.
“It is essential once you get a specimen like this, because it tells you extra in regards to the animal than simply its bones would,” he mentioned. “After all, discovering skeletons is nice, however discovering the pores and skin and preserved delicate tissues tells us extra in regards to the ecology of those animals. They weren’t a bunch of skeletons strolling round hundreds of thousands of years in the past. They have been residing, respiration animals.”
Initially revealed on Reside Science.