Well-preserved Canadian fossil reveals dinosaur armor like no other

James Marshall
August 4, 2017

The dinosaur was given its name Borealopelta markmitchelli after the researcher. Despite the tank-like species' impressive size, the dinosaur's scales also served as camouflage, suggesting it hid to avoid predation.

He found the skin exhibited countershading, a common form of camouflage in which an animal's underside is lighter than its back.

"We found a lot of sulfur-bearing organic compounds, which we later could confirm was evidence for reddish brown coloration", said team member Dr. Jakob Vinther, from the University of Bristol.

The researchers documented not just the pattern and shape of the scales and armor across the nodosaur's body, but also inferred the pigmentation pattern of the skin using chemical analysis of organic compounds.

"Although countershading is common, the findings come as surprise because Borealopelta's size far exceeds that of counter shaded animals alive today".

"No animals on land exhibit countershading today that are greater than a metric tonne while Borealopelta is estimated to have weighed about 1.3 tonnes".

The Cretaceous was a time when giant theropods, meat-eating dinosaurs that stood on two legs, roamed the Earth.

A machine operator at the Suncor Millennium oil sand mine in northern Alberta stumbled on the fossil in 2011.

"Large theropod dinosaurs with excellent color vision would have made life stressful for many dinosaurs, both big and small".

Scientists and dinosaur fans would love to know what dinosaurs looked like in real life, but so far they've had little more than fossilized bones and their imaginations to go on.

A 110-million-year-old dinosaur fossil found in Alberta, Canada, is one of the best-preserved dinosaurs ever found. The new species is named in Mitchell's honour.

"This remarkable specimen illustrates just how unique and important the fossil record of Alberta is, and highlights the mandate of the museum in the research, preservation, and education of these incredible resources", Royal Tyrrell Museum Executive Director Andrew Neuman said, Science Daily reported. "In this case we have all the skin preserved in the front half of body - so it actually looks like it looked back in the Cretaceous".

Lead researcher Caleb Brown called it "the Mona Lisa of dinosaurs", and added: "It will go down in science history as one of the most attractive and best preserved dinosaur specimens".

"Predatory targeting a dinosaur battleship of this size illustrates how the other dinosaur predators should be unsafe to the Cretaceous" (-145 to -65,5 million years), tip Brown.

"You don't need to use much imagination to reconstruct it; if you just squint your eyes a bit, you could nearly believe it was sleeping", Brown said.

This specimen is out of the ordinary will give rise to numerous other studies, have been identified by the scientists, which examine, for example, the contents of its entrails to try to determine the nature of his last meal.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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