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Remember the dinosaur unearthed in Canada? It now has a name and a backstory

With fossilized skin and scales, the dragon-like creature is actually a new kind of nodosaur, coined Borealopelta markmitchelli.

more lifestyle Updated: Aug 04, 2017 11:35 IST
(tyrrellmuseum.com)

An extraordinarily well-preserved 110-million-year-old dinosaur found in a mine pit in Canada now has a name and evidence of a troubled past, researchers said Thursday. With fossilised skin and scales, the dragon-like creature is actually a new kind of nodosaur, coined Borealopelta markmitchelli, after the museum technician Mark Mitchell who spent more than 7,000 hours painstakingly removing rock from around the specimen.

The entire animal would have weighed more than 2,800 pounds (1,300 kilograms). (Royal Tyrrell Museum/Facebook )

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 18-foot-long (5.5 meter) creature was first 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 2,800 pounds (1,300 kilograms). 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.

Struggle to survive

By studying its skin, researchers found that this plant-eater, though covered in armour and resembling a walking tank, likely faced a significant threat from meat-eating dinosaurs. That’s because it employed a shielding technique known as counter-shading, which is also used by many modern day animals.

But most contemporary animals that have countershading -- think deer, zebras or armadillos -- are much smaller and more vulnerable as prey, signalling that this nodosaur faced a real struggle to survive. Scientists are continuing to study the animal for clues about its life, including its preserved gut contents to find out what it ate for its last meal. They believe that when the dinosaur died, it fell into a river and was swept out to sea, where it sank on its back to the ocean floor.

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