Face to face up with a perfectly preserved dinosaur that looks like information technology was alive yesterday
An accidental discovery of a 3D fossil reveals the dinosaur’s mysterious expiry
Parts of Alberta are libraries of Earth’s history, treasure troves of fossils from animals that lived millions of years agone. Merely sometimes, an especially rare gem is found.
Dinosaur Common cold Case
, a documentary from
The Nature of Things, we meet the remarkable dinosaur known as
— preserved in center-popping 3D.
WATCH: Later on six years of work,
Borealopelta‘s body is finally revealed.
Paleontologists are solving the mystery of what killed it, how it came to rest at the bottom of a prehistoric body of water and how it was preserved so perfectly.
The accidental discovery of an incredible dinosaur
In March 2011, Shawn Funk, a shovel operator at Suncor Free energy’due south Millennium oilsands mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta., was digging away at a large bank when he inadvertently stumbled upon Alberta’s oldest dinosaur fossil and one of the well-nigh well-preserved dinosaur fossils ever found.
“Right away, we knew it was going to be something practiced,” says Don Henderson, curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alta. “But we had no thought how practiced information technology was going to be.”
After getting the fossil back to the museum, Don and his team set to work solving the 110-one thousand thousand-twelvemonth-old mystery.
The life and times of
6 years subsequently information technology was found, the mysterious dino was declared a new species to science and given a name:
markmitchelli. “Borealopelta” means “shield of the North,” and its species proper name is a nod to Mark Mitchell, the Royal Tyrrell Museum technician who spent 7,000 hours fighting for every millimetre while freeing the dinosaur from the rock it was found in.
The approximately 5-and-a-half-metre-long specimen was so perfectly preserved that researchers were able to stare into the face of a existent dinosaur that lived during a time when Due north America was a very unlike place.
was built similar a tank and covered in thick armour, especially around its neck, indicating that it needed protection from predators.
At its shoulders, a massive, 51-centimetre-long spike extended out on either side. At start, it was idea these weapons could have been used for fighting other
Borealopeltas, simply Victoria Arbour, curator of palaeontology at the Royal BC Museum, believes they could have been used for both love and war. “When you see something like a huge fasten,” says Arbour, “that could simultaneously be a point to mates that you’re in good wellness.” Borealopelta’southward massive shoulder spikes could have acted similar a bull’s horns or an elephant’southward tusks, which are used in defence force when necessary simply are too an indicator of status and strength.
An artist’s impression of
Many of the fossilized armour plates possessed a keratin sheath (the same material equally our fingernails) with a thin moving picture that allowed researchers to approximate at
Borealopelta’due south color.
“It was institute that at least one component of
Borealopelta’s colour was this cherry brown,” says Caleb Brown, a curator at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. “The paint seemed to be concentrated on the back of the animate being and non the abdomen, and this is consistent with this thought of countershading.”
Countershading allows animals to alloy with their environment and hide from corking-eyed predators.
Although some researchers question whether the colouration was just an anomaly of fossilization, if
Borealopelta, an almost 1,300-kilogram animal, did require camouflage, it must have had some terrifying predators indeed.
The terrifying dinosaur of the 24-hour interval, 110 one thousand thousand years ago, was Acrocanthosaurus, a killing automobile that ruled the Cretaceous long before more than well-known predators like T. king arrived on the scene.
Could an attack from an Acrocanthosaurus take been the cause of
Borealopelta’s expiry? In a simulated exam, researchers found that Acrocanthosaurus’s bite would have done some serious damage to
Borealopelta, and it was likely one of its chief predators. But this particular specimen was found in such pristine condition, with no signs of trauma, that it must have died another way…
Dino’s final meal may exist the key to its mysterious death
After studying the location the fossil was found, the squad determined that
likely came to residuum, belly upwards, at the bottom of a prehistoric sea. In an extremely rare find, the tum contents of
were preserved along with its body, providing an important clue as to how information technology got at that place.
Paleobotanist David Greenwood examined
Borealopelta’s miraculously fossilized last meal and discovered twigs and ferns. Incredibly, the twigs appeared to be in mid-growth, indicating that they were eaten during the wet season, when extreme storms and flash floods would have been a existent problem. On the coastal plains where
lived, a rapid rise in water level could accept caught it off guard — and
was not built for swimming.
100 million years agone, Alberta was a behemothic bounding main, surrounded by tropical forests
“Destroyer of shins” — a newly discovered dinosaur may have used its armour for more than defense force
Sexing a fossil that’south millions of years old
is preserved in incredible detail
drowned in a torrent that swept it away, how did information technology come up to remainder upside down on the sea floor?
Henderson and Brown went dorsum to the records to see the position in which other armoured dinosaur fossils in Alberta were found, and discovered that about 70 per cent of these dinosaurs were also found on their backs.
“As [Borealopelta] started to rot,” Brownish reasons, “gases built up within the body cavity.” In the h2o, the rest was uncomplicated physics. “That swollen torso, with the soft belly and dense dorsum, causes information technology to flip over,” says Henderson. “Its arms and legs [would have been] sticking upward in the air.”
With its stiff limbs interim as sails,
would have caught the wind and literally sailed out to sea, travelling a long way into open up water. And then, says Henderson, “it goes popular … and it goes down like a stone.”
would have hitting the bounding main flooring with strength, burying itself in sediment that was disturbed from the touch — central to the fossil’s incredible preservation.
Through a chemical reaction, this sediment would have formed a natural concrete, preserving the body within its ain sarcophagus. Henderson and Brown suspect this is how
was protected from immense pressure and decay.
Safe inside this natural time capsule, the nodosaur waited 110 million years until one fateful day, when a miner in Alberta came across a miraculous discover and
Borealopelta’due south mysteries were unearthed.
Dinosaur Cold Case
The Nature of Things.