Dragon­like ‘Mona Lisa of di­nosaurs’ fi­nally has a name

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

AFP

The well-pre­served head of a 110-mil­lion-year-old

Bo­re­alopelta­mark­mitchelli is dis­played at the Royal Tyrrell Mu­seum in Canada.

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