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Dinosaur 'mummy' found

05 December 2007

Early studies of a 67-million-year old dinosaur with fossilised soft tissues are promising.

In 1999 16-year-old Tyler Lyson came across some fossilised remains on his family's North Dakota property. He made a note of their location, and came back in 2004 with a team to start excavating. But he wasn't prepared for what he found - a preserved dinosaur 'mummy' with fossilised skin and soft tissues as well as bones.

Edmontosaurus

The dinosaur is probably a preserved Edmontosaurus, which is in the hadrosaur family. Hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs, lived during the Late Cretaceous period and were herbivores that are likely to have lived in herds.

Preserved skin

Most of what we know about dinosaurs has been revealed to us by studying their fossilised bones. But due to very rare environmental conditions, the tissues of the dinosaur, which has been nicknamed Dakota, mineralised before bacteria could break them down.

Although it is not possible to tell what colour the skin was, Dr Phil Manning, palaeontologist at Manchester University and leader of the investigation, believes that Dakota may have had stripes.

'There seems to be a variation in scale size that might possibly correlate, as it does in modern reptiles in many cases, with changes in colour,' Manning said.

More to come

However, we'll have to wait and see what else may be revealed by the find, including the size of the animal and conclusions on how it may have moved.

As Paul Barrett, palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum says, 'This new dinosaur mummy is an extremely exciting discovery.  We are waiting for the team to present their detailed results to the scientific community. It will offer us some really exceptional new insights into the biology of duck-billed dinosaurs.'

You can see an Edmontosaurus with an area of fossilised skin on display in the Museum's Dinosaur gallery.

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