Fossilized remains of plants and animals that are millions of years old are frequently found throughout the world. Although, these fossilized remains answer a great deal of questions about life on Earth in eras gone by, they rarely offer the complete picture. Most specimens go through an array of temperature and pressure conditions, changing the characteristics of the original animal or plant.
However, researchers discovered fossilized remains of a dinosaur in 2011, which most paleontologists concluded to be the best-preserved fossil of its kind.
How The Fossil Was Discovered?
During a mining operation in Alberta, Canada in 2011, miners discovered the specimen which was later determined to belong to a nodosaur. These species of dinosaurs were heavily armored herbivores that existed around 110 million years ago.
On March 21, 2011, miner Shawn Funk came across the fossilized nodosaur specimen at the Suncor Millennium Mine. At first he and his supervisor mistook the unnatural formation among the rocks to be fossilized wood and even well-preserved ribs.
However, as they uncovered more of the specimen, miners concluded that it was the remains of something much bigger and decided to contact experts for their opinion.
The Most Well-Preserved Fossil
Scientists were unable to figure out how the nodosaur was killed, but said that the body was preserved well. It is believed that the dinosaur's body ended up in an ancient sea and that the minerals in the water were responsible for preserving the specimen so well.
"It's basically a dinosaur mummy — it really is exceptional," Don Brinkman, director of research and preservation at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, remarked. The fossilized remains are housed in the museum currently.
Suncor Millennium Mine — where the specimen was uncovered — is said to be an ancient sea bed, which dried up over the years. This is why scientists have discovered numerous fossils belonging to ancient plants and animals in the region.
At first glance, the nodosaur fossil looks like it has been sculpted out of stone. However, deeper inspection reveals the various features of the creature, which scientists believe was alive around 110 million to 112 million years ago. The skin has been well preserved as even the armor-like scales on the dinosaur's back are distinctly visible.
"I've been calling this one the Rosetta stone for armor," Donald Henderson, the dinosaur curator at the museum, said.
Scientists also discovered two spike-like formations on the shoulder of the creature. They believe that the nodosaur used this as a form of defense against other predatory dinosaurs. The 18-foot long, 3,000-pound creature is comparable to the modern-day rhinoceros in terms of its characteristics.