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Perfect Dinosaur Fossil Debuts In Alberta

First Posted: May 15, 2017 06:42 AM EDT

Mummified remains of an 18-foot dinosaur emerged from an oil sands mine in Canada. The nodosaur, as it was classified, became the crown jewel of the newly opened exhibit at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta, Canada.

Dinosaur remains are not as unusual as one might think. However, the 18-foot, tank-like species remained unique for its nearly unprecedented state of preservation. According to CNN, the nodosaur is dated to be roughly 110 million years old and looks like a sleeping giant. There are no visible bones because most of its skeleton is still covered in fossilized skin. As the museum stated, it is still "encased in intact body armor."

Nodosaurs were four-legged herbivores with tank-like armor, dotted with spikes as a form of protection. However, this one remained a new species and new genus. Museum experts believe it to be the oldest known dinosaur in Canada and is the most well-preserved armored species ever to be unearthed.

Yet, how the land-dwelling, plant-eating species died remained a mystery. The New York Times noted that somehow, the nodosaur's body ended up at the bottom of an ancient sea, leaving the minerals remarkably intact, eventually turning the body into a fossil.

Don Brinkman, director of preservation and research at the museum, described the find as "exceptional." The dinosaur is said to not only have its fossilized skin, but its gut content intact as well. National Geographic pointed out that usually, only bones and teeth of dinosaurs are preserved. It is very rare to find minerals replace the soft tissues before they rot away.

Even at times when this is possible, there is no guarantee that the fossil could keep its real shape. However, the rapid undersea burial of this particular nodosaur significantly helped in its preservation.

To ensure that the largely intact fossil keeps its form, the museum was careful during the retrieval, minimizing the use of industrial machines as much as possible. The new nodosaur exibit opened at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta this week.

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