The remains of the ankylosaur dinosaur that was named after the Ghostbuster monster Zuul was so well preserved these were found with complete skull and tail club.
Scientists also said that the specimen of the dinosaur dubbed Zuul crurivastator still has preserved soft tissues, which makes the fossil an exciting and rare find since this allowed scientist to see the texture of the animal's skin imprinted on the rock that encased the remains.
The spikes and scales of the creature were also embedded in the skin giving researchers a clear picture of how the dragon-like prehistoric animal looked like when it lived about 75 million years ago during the Cretaceous period.
"The presence of abundant soft tissue preservation across the skeleton, including in situ osteoderms, skin impressions and dark films that probably represent preserved keratin, make this exceptional skeleton an important reference for understanding the evolution of dermal and epidermal structures in this clade," researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the in the journal Royal Society Open Science on May 10.
Finding Soft Tissues In Dinosaurs
This is not the first time that researchers found preserved soft tissues of a dinosaur.
Fossilized red blood cells and collagen were first found in fossils of a theropod. Earlier this year, scientists also found collagen and other iron-rich proteins in the bones of a dinosaur that lived during the Jurassic era.
Preserved soft tissues though often elude scientists. Scientists once thought that the proteins that make up soft tissues degrade in less than 1 million years even with the best conditions. Most of the time, microbes feast on an animal's soft tissue, which destroys it within just weeks.
Recent research though suggested that proteins may be preserved in some of the fossils albeit the only candidates are those from the very end of the dinosaur age, which is about 70 million years ago.
It appears that the specimen of the Zuul that was discovered in Montana's Judith River Formation in 2016 is one of these rare finds.
Soft Tissues Found In Remains Of Zuul Ankylosaur Dinosaur
Scientists said that the soft tissues of the creature such as the osteoderms, or the bony deposits that form scales and plates in the dermal layer of the skin, skin impressions and dark films that possibly represent preserved keratin will be the subject of future studies.
"Not only is the skeleton almost completely intact, but large parts of the bony armour in the skin are still in its natural position," said David Evans, of the Royal Ontario Museum. "Most excitingly, soft tissues such as scales and the horny sheaths of spikes are preserved."
Dinosaurs That Roamed Judith River Formation In Prehistoric Times
Zuul is the first ankylosaur discovered in the Judith River Formation. Scientists have been working here for the Southern Alberta Dinosaur Project.
Zuul is one of the most complete and best-preserved of its kind ever found. Other dinosaurs that roamed in this area during ancient times include the Albertosaurus, Avaceratops, Brachylophosaurus, Dromaeosaurs, and Troodon.