A rare dinosaur skeleton with fossilized skin discovered in Canada

The "dinosaur mummy" can reveal important insights about the specimen.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Parts of the fossil in the hill.jpg
Parts of the fossil in the hill.

University of Reading 

Finding a dinosaur fossil with preserved soft tissue has thus far been considered impossible. A team of researchers in Alberta, Canada, has discovered a hadrosaur with not only a near-complete skeleton but also with patches of skin still intact, according to a press release published last week by the University of Reading, UK.

A duck-billed dinosaur

The exposed fossil of the large-bodied, herbivorous, duck-billed dinosaur is currently still protruding from a hillside in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada, which is one of the world’s richest locations for dinosaur fossils. Some 400 to 500 dinosaur skeletons or skulls have been found in the area.

The fossil is further oriented in a way that suggests that the entire skeleton may still be preserved within the hill, making it an exceptional “dinosaur mummy” that is likely to provide significant insights about the animal’s appearance and anatomy.

The fossil was first spotted during a field school scouting visit in 2021 when Dr. Brian Pickles from the University of Reading was leading a search of the area.

Dr. Pickles said: “This is a very exciting discovery, and we hope to complete the excavation over the next two field seasons. Based on the small size of the tail and foot, this is likely to be a juvenile. Although adult duck-billed dinosaurs are well represented in the fossil record, younger animals are far less common. This means the find could help paleontologists to understand how hadrosaurs grew and developed.”

A rare dinosaur skeleton with fossilized skin discovered in Canada
The researchers in front of the fossil.

Collecting and putting together the entire skeleton may take several months, but once it is collected, it will be delivered to the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Preparation Lab, where expert technicians will work to uncover its mysteries and hidden secrets.

They will also evaluate how well-preserved the skeleton is, whether the entire skeleton is there, and how much of the animal’s skin is preserved. Fully preparing the skeleton for research and display may even take several years. However, identifying the exact species of duck-billed dinosaur of the skeleton will require a skull to be discovered.

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76 million years ago

The specimen is estimated to have died approximately 76 million years ago while roaming what was once a river system during the Cretaceous period. In total, the skeleton measures 13 feet (4 meters) in length. Experts suspect that the abundance of sandstone and silt covering the fossil is what helped it be so impressively preserved.

“Hadrosaur fossils are relatively common in this part of the world but another thing that makes this find unique is the fact that large areas of the exposed skeleton are covered in fossilized skin, said Dr. Caleb Brown, from the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

"This suggests that there may be even more preserved skin within the rock, which can give us further insight into what the hadrosaur looked like.”

It's amazing that after all this time, new and exciting finds in paleontology can be made. One might think all that can be discovered has been found, but nature keeps on surprising us with more developments.

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