Meet the Nodosaur: earth’s most perfectly-preserved dinosaur
Earth’s most perfectly-preserved dinosaur
When miner Shawn Funk strapped himself to an excavator at the Suncor Millennium Mine in Canada on March 21, 2011, he had no idea what he’d pull out of the ground. He’d been digging for heavy crude oil called bitumen in the oil-sand mine for 12 years, according to a 2017 article by Michael Greshko published in National Geographic, and never found anything more exciting than an occasional petrified tree stump – but today was different.
Right after lunch, his backhoe hit something big. At first it looked like a giant, petrified pineapple – but when the mining company flew in experts from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, they knew they’d found something very special.
The find was quickly transported some 420 miles to the museum, where a technician named Mark Mitchell spent an incredible six years chipping through rock to expose a dinosaur locked in stone since the Early Cretaceous period, 110 million years ago. And considering its age, it didn’t look the worse for wear. “We didn’t just find a skeleton,” said researcher Caleb Brown in a 2017 interview with National Geographic. “We found a dinosaur as it would have been.”
Built like tanks, Nodosaurs and Ankylosaurs were the rhinos of their day – armored grazers which tried their best to avoid predators like the Acrocanthosaurus, a cousin of Tyrannosaurus Rex. The fossilized Nodosaur possibly drowned in a flood and washed out to sea, where it floated upside down for several weeks before bursting and sinking to the seabed with enough force to bury it under six inches of sediment, keeping the animal’s original form.
An illustration of the Nodosaur as it would have appeared in life. It was counter-shaded with red and white as a form of camouflage against predators. Considering how much armor and weaponry it was already armed with, the predators of the Early Cretaceous period must have been fearsome indeed!