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The skin of a 67-million-year-old dinosaur was bitten and torn from an ancient crocodile, and how its flesh was torn apart explains why it became mummified.
Skin decays much more easily than bones, which is why it is extremely rare to find fossilized dinosaur skin.
New research on the 7-meter (23-foot) long Edmontosaurus, a type of plant-eating hadrosaur, found near the town of Marmarth, North Dakota in 1999 has shed light on how the creature’s skin allowed it to survive for centuries.
“The bite marks were really unexpected. I thought the soft tissue wouldn’t be preserved if it was damaged prior to burial, so it’s the carnivorous damage that really started us thinking about how these fossils form in the first place,” said Stephanie Drumheller-Horton, a paleontologist at Theology. University of Tennessee Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, co-author of the new study.
Paleontologists used to think that a dinosaur or some other prehistoric creature would have to be buried very quickly in soft tissue to preserve it – but this was not the case for the poor hadrosaur.
Researchers think the bite marks on the hadrosaur’s arm came from an ancient crocodile relative, but there is no doubt that its tail clawed or clawed – even though it was bigger. Whether the injuries to his arm and tail killed him, or whether the injuries were inflicted after his death, is not sufficient.
But it was the dinosaur’s misfortune that allowed it to preserve its skin, Drumheller-Horton explained.
“Try to put it in the most disgusting way possible – by puncturing the skin, it allowed the vapors and moisture to escape with the subsequent composition. What is cut, dries up behind. Skin in nature mummified in this way can last for weeks to months even in fairly humid environments, and the longer it lasts, the more likely it is to be buried and undergo fossilization,” he said.
The blue color of fossil skin is not thought to be what it was when the dinosaurs lived. However, the iron content of rocks during the fossilization process can affect it.
While often depicted as gray-green, the color most dinosaurs used is largely unknown. Studies of feathers in dinosaur fossils have shown that they are surprisingly diverse.
But hadrosaur skin provided a lot of information about the size and pattern of scales across the dinosaur’s body as well as the amount of muscle mass – depending on how expansive the skin was in that area.
“Skin rots much more easily than bones, so it takes a different and less observed process to bury and burrow the skin long enough,” said research coauthor Clint Boyd, senior paleontologist at the North Dakota Geological Survey.
He said there are probably fewer than 20 true dinosaur “mummies,” with nearly intact soft-tissue remains.
To put this in context, I have found thousands of fossils in my life, but only one preserved skin impression (a skin impression, not the preserved film itself) and I have never found myself with skin. saved,” Boyd said via email.
The research was published in the journal PLOS on Wednesday.
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