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The skin of a 67 million-year-old dinosaur has revealed bites and wounds from an ancient crocodile, and how the flesh ripped apart may explain why it was mummified.
Skin degrades much more easily than bones, so it is very rare to find fossilized dinosaur skin.
New research on the 7-foot-tall Edmontosaurus, a herbivorous hadrosaur found in 1999 near the town of Marmarth, North Dakota, sheds light on the factors that allowed its skin to survive through the ages.
“The bite marks were really unexpected. It was thought that the soft tissues wouldn’t be preserved if they were damaged before burial, so the damage done by the carnivores really got us thinking about how these fossils formed in the first place,” the University of Tennessee’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences -Author of the new study.
Paleontologists used to think that a dinosaur, or any prehistoric creature for that matter, would have to be buried very quickly to preserve soft tissue – but that wasn’t the case for this poor hadrosaur.
Researchers think the bite marks on the hadrosaur’s arm came from an ancient crocodile relative, but they aren’t sure what type of animal scratched its tail or squeaked — although it was likely larger. It was not clear whether the injuries to his arm and tail killed him or whether they were caused by the zabaleen after his death.
But Drumheller-Horton explained that it was the misfortune of the dinosaurs that allowed him to preserve his skin.
“To try to make it as disgusting as possible — puncturing the skin allowed the gases and fluids associated with subsequent decomposition to escape. This hollow skin was left to dry. Naturally mummified skin like this could last for weeks to months, even in slightly humid environments, and the longer it lived, the more likely it was to be buried. and stone it.
The bluish color of the fossilized skin is not thought to reflect what it would have been like when the dinosaur was alive. However, the high iron content in the rocks during the petrification process may have affected them.
Although it is often depicted as a greenish-gray, the color of most dinosaurs is largely unknown. Studies on fossils Dinosaur feathers showed that some were surprisingly colorful.
However, hadrosaur skin provided a lot of information about the size and patterns of scales across the dinosaur’s body, as well as the amount of muscle mass – based on how extensive the skin was in that area.
“Skin breaks down much more easily than bone, so different and less common processes are needed to preserve the skin long enough to be buried and fossilized,” said Clint Boyd, chief paleontologist at the North Dakota Geological Survey and co-author of the study.
He said there may have been fewer than 20 real dinosaur “mummy” with complete or nearly complete sets of soft tissue.
“To put it in context, I’ve found thousands of fossils in my career, but only one of those preserved skin impressions (the imprint of the skin, not the preserved skin itself) and I’ve never found one with the skin myself,” Boyd said via email.
The search was published in PLOS One magazine on Wednesday.
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