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Researchers look a dinosaur in its remarkably preserved face

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Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology

Borealopelta Mitchelli In 2017, millions of years after his death, he returned to the light of the sun. This armored dinosaur is very well preserved and can be seen in life. Almost the entire animal—skin, armor covering the skin, spines on the sides, most of the body and legs, and even the face—survived fossilization. According to Dr. Donald Henderson, Dinosaur Curator at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, this is his one-billionth discovery.

Beyond its remarkable state of preservation, this dinosaur is key to understanding the ecology of the Lower Cretaceous, showing how the species lived within its environment. Since its fossil was discovered, scientists have studied its anatomy, armor and even what it ate in its last days, yielding unexpected new insights into the animal, which went extinct about 100 million years ago. clarified.

by the sea

Borealopelta Nodosaurus is a type of four-legged ankylosaurus with a straight tail instead of a tail club. Its discovery in 2011 in an ancient marine environment was a surprise. Because this animal was terrestrial.

Large terrestrial herbivores living on the ancient seafloor are not as rare as you might think.Ah Number of other Ankylosaurus Not as much, but stored like this BorealopeltaScientists suspect the carcass was carried from the river to the sea by flood waters. It may have been floating upside down on the surface for several days before sinking into the depths of the ocean.

Postmortem accumulation of gas keeps them buoyant, so they may have been kept at the surface by something called ‘swell and float’. Modeling done by Henderson shows that heavy armor rolled onto its back, which he speculates may have prevented sea predators from scavenging the corpse.

When the gas that floats it is exhausted, Borealopelta Sink to the seabed and land on your back.

“It was preserved in a specific mineral called glauconite, a green phosphate mineral, so we know it was submerged deeper than 50 meters. ,” explains Dr. Henderson.

He also told Ars that the environment may have discouraged cleanup efforts. [long-necked] The plesiosaur and the big fish didn’t want to go. too cold and too dark [there was] I don’t eat anything. Also, there were few trace fossils in the surrounding sediments. So there wasn’t much in the way of further digestion of it, such as earthworms, crustaceans and bivalves. ”

unfulfilled expectations

But when the animal was discovered, nothing of this was known. Finding dinosaur fossils in marine environments is not at all uncommon, but neither is it very common. Henderson and Darren Tanke, also of the Royal His Tyrrell Museum, stepped into the scene in full expectation of an ancient marine reptile being unearthed.

The two consulted on fossil finds at other open pit mines in the state. But this was my first visit to Suncor, a mine in northeastern Alberta, Canada. Everything in this mine is huge. A gigantic machine is in constant motion, scooping rocks, sand and gravel from the surrounding cliffs and other equipment clearing them. All of these are aimed at discovering deeper oil sands for fuel.

“It’s an incredible scale,” Dr. Henderson said. “And it goes on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Despite the pace of work, one particular shovel operator, Sean Funk, happened to notice something after taking a large chunk off a cliff. Thanks to him and some people within Suncor, activity in the area ceased and he was notified by Royal His Tyrrell.

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