Meet the No­dosaur: earth’s most per­fectly-pre­served di­nosaur

Earth’s most per­fectly-pre­served di­nosaur

Animal Scene - - CONTENTS - by Gregg Yan

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.

(Na­tional Ge­o­graphic)

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!

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