Dragonlike ‘Mona Lisa of dinosaurs’ finally has a name
MIAMI, Florida — An extraordinarily well-preserved, 110-million-year-old dinosaur found in a mine pit in Canada now has a name and evidence that it struggled to survive, researchers say.
With fossilized skin and scales, the dragonlike creature is actually a new kind of nodosaur, named Borealopelta markmitchelli after the museum technician Mark Mitchell, who spent more than 7,000 hours painstakingly removing rock from around the specimen.
The report in the journal Current Biology described it as “the best-preserved armored dinosaur ever found, and one of the best dinosaur specimens in the world”.
The fossil of the 5.5-meterlong creature was discovered in 2011 by a mining machine operator named Shawn Funk, who was working at the Suncor Millennium Mine in Alberta.
The entire animal would have weighed more than 1.3 metric tons. The portion recovered spans from the snout to the hips.
Unlike most dinosaur specimens, which consist of skeletons or bone fragments, this one is three-dimensional and covered in preserved, scaly skin.
“If you just squint your eyes a bit, you could almost believe it was sleeping,” said lead author Caleb Brown, a scientist at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, where the fossil is on display.
“It will go down in science history as one of the most beautiful and best preserved dinosaur specimens — the Mona Lisa of dinosaurs,” Brown said on Thursday.
Researchers found that this plant-eater, though covered in armor, had camouflage known as countershading. But most contemporary animals that have countershading — deer and armadillos, for example — are much smaller and more vulnerable as prey, signaling a serious challenge to this nodosaur’s ability to survive.
The well-preserved head of a 110-million-year-old
Borealopeltamarkmitchelli is displayed at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Canada.