The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta, Canada is displaying a newly discovered species of dinosaur that, thanks to its mysteriously well-preserved body, is being called a “dinosaur mummy.”
The new species, herbivoral nodosaur, would have weighed approximately 1,360 kilograms (3,000 pounds) when alive. As a result of its excellent preservation, the specimen on display weighs 2,500 pounds, with its skin, armor, and portions of its intestines still visible.
It is not known how the dinosaur’s organs remained so intact, but researchers speculate that the animal may have rested on the ocean floor for millions of years, allowing minerals to take the place of organs.
The dinosaur’s journey from discovery to the museum took six years, considerably less than the 110 million years since its death in the early Cretaceous period. A miner found the dinosaur while working in Alberta, and immediately alerted technicians at the museum.
In the Alberta of the early Cretaceous period, the dinosaur would have experienced a climate and habitat similar that of to modern Florida.
After whittling down the rock around the fossil to a block of 15,000 pounds, the rock shattered during lifting. The pieces were wrapped in plaster and driven to the museum, where the fossil prep lab spent over 7,000 hours exposing the skin and bone from the surrounding rock.
Experts at the museum say that this find is a great leap in understanding the structure of dinosaur armor, as it is the most complete specimen ever found. Chemical traces on the armor may also give evidence of the dinosaur’s coloration, which may offer clues on its mating displays while vying for attention from the opposite sex.
The 18-foot-long herbivore was, as National Geographic puts it, “the rhinoceros of its day,” that preferred to live on its own and had two 20-inch-long spikes coming out of its shoulders.