Scientists were pleasantly surprised when a mummified, almost-intact dinosaur turned up in an oil sands mine in Canada.
Measuring over 18 feet long and built like a tank, the nodosaur is the new king of a newly opened dinosaur exhibit at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta, Canada, CNN reports. What makes this giant unique among its other, similarly huge cousins is its unparalleled state of preservation.
The nodosaur is around 110 million years old, but it looks like it could have stepped out of a Steven Spielberg movie. There are no bones to be seen, because most of its skeleton is covered in fossilized skin, or as the museum calls it, “encased in intact body armour.”
Nodosaurs were herbivores that moved on four legs, and had tank-like armor for skin with dotted spikes to protect them from predators, the Smithsonian Natural History Museum says. This particular nodosaur is a new species and a new genus.
Scientists say this is the oldest known dinosaur from Alberta, and is the world’s most well-preserved specimen of armored dinosaurs.
The fossil was found in 2011, when an excavator operator accidentally discovered it while digging in an oil sands mine. After six years and 7,000 hours of reconstruction, the nodosaur is now ready for the public to see it, the museum’s news release stated.
The mummified dinosaur weighs around 2,500 pounds, which is close to its 3,000 pound weight when it was alive, experts say. This nodosaur might have been swept away by floodwaters and carried out to sea, where it sank. During the millions of years it stayed buried, minerals gathered on it and preserved it in its current lifelike form.
Experts at the museum partnered with the National Geographic Society to learn more about the nodosaur. It is featured in National Geographic magazine’s June issue.
The museum’s exhibit opened to the public this week.