(ORDO NEWS) — Under certain conditions, dinosaur fossils can include perfectly preserved skin, a phenomenon long thought to be rare.
Based on analysis of a mummified dinosaur with well-preserved skin showing bite marks, scientists have suggested that such dinosaur “mummies” may be more common than previously thought.
Most fossils are bones, shells, teeth, and other forms of “hard” tissue, but rare fossils are found that have preserved soft tissues such as skin, muscles, and other organs.
Dinosaur “mummies” discovered to date show signs of two distinct mummification processes.
One of them is a quick burial, in which the body is quickly covered (when drowning in a swamp, for example), decomposition is significantly slowed down, and the remains are protected from scavengers.
Another common method is desiccation, in which the body must be exposed to dry and warm air for a certain time before burial.
The specimen studied is a partial skeleton of the Edmontosaurus duckbilled dinosaur found in the Hell Creek Formation of southwestern North Dakota.
This dinosaur showed signs of both rapid burial and desiccation. The remains have been studied using various tools and techniques since 2008.
Numerous holes and punctures were found on the forelimb and tail, as well as holes and scratches on the bones and skin in the form of an arc, reminiscent of the shape of a crocodile’s teeth.
The tail also had longer V-shaped punctures that could have been made by a larger carnivorous predator, such as a young T-Rex.
The authors concluded that there is probably more than one route for dinosaur mummification.
The authors believe the dinosaur was “mummified” through a process called “desiccation and deflation,” which involves incomplete decomposition in which animal carcasses are emptied and predatory organisms eat away the internal tissues, leaving the skin and bones behind.
Finally, the mummified remains were buried under mud, possibly from a flash flood, and the circulating fluids deposited minerals, replacing the remaining soft tissue and preserving the cast in the rock.
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