Borealopilta Mitchell It found its way back into the sunlight in 2017, millions of years after it died out. This armored dinosaur has been so wonderfully preserved that we can see what it would have looked like in life. Almost the entire animal survived fossilization—the skin, the armor covering its skin, the spikes along its side, most of its body and feet, and even its face. It is, according to Dr Donald Henderson, Curator of Dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, a one-in-a-billion find.
Besides the preservation of this remarkable dinosaur, this dinosaur is an important key to understanding aspects of the ecology of the early Cretaceous period, and shows how this species might have survived in its environment. Since the discovery of its remains, scientists have studied its anatomy, its armor, and even what it ate in its final days, revealing new and unexpected insights into an animal that went extinct nearly 100 million years ago.
down the sea
Borealopilta It is a nodosaur, a type of four-legged ankylosaur with a straight tail instead of a club-tailed one. Its discovery in 2011 in an ancient marine environment came as a surprise, as the animal was wild.
The presence of giant marine eaters on land preserved at the bottom of the ancient sea is not as uncommon as one might think. A number of other ankylosaurs have been preserved in this way, though not as well Borealopilta. Scientists suspect that her bodies may have been carried from a river to the sea in a flood event; It might bobble on the surface upside down for a few days before sinking into the ocean depths.
It would have been kept at the surface by what is referred to as “bulging and buoyancy”, as the postmortem accumulation of gases would keep it afloat. Henderson’s modeling suggests that its heavy carapace would have tipped it onto its back, a position he suspects might prevent ocean predators from plundering its carcasses.
Once the gases that kept it afloat were expelled, Borealopilta She sank to the bottom of the ocean, landing on her back.
“We could see that it entered the water at a depth of more than 50 meters because it was preserved with a specific mineral called glauconite, which is a green phosphate mineral. It only forms at low temperatures in waters deeper than 50 meters,” explained Dr. Henderson.
He also told Ars that this environment may also discourage garbage collection, saying, “Maybe it was an area where [long-necked] Plesiosaurs and large fish did not like to go. It was very cold and very dark, and [there was] Nothing to eat. There were very few archaeological fossils in the sediments around it. So there wasn’t much in the way of worms and crustaceans and bivalves and things there to further digest. It was just a good combination of conditions on the sea floor that had very low biological activity that led to this conservation.”
But none of this was known when the animal was discovered. Although it is not unusual to find dinosaur remains in marine environments, they are not very common. Henderson and Darren Tank, also of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, walked to the site fully expecting they were going to dig up an ancient marine reptile.
The two had consulted about fossil finds in other open-pit mines within the county. However, this was their first visit to the Suncor mine in northeastern Alberta, Canada. Everything about this mine is phenomenal. Huge machinery is constantly on the move, scooping up rocks, sand, and gravel from the surrounding cliffs, while other equipment scrapes them away, all with the goal of excavating the deep oil sands for fuel.
“It’s incredible, the scale of the place,” said Dr. Henderson. “And it goes on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
Despite the pace of operations, one of the dredge operators, Sean Funk, noticed something after removing a large section of the cliff. Thanks to him and many people within Suncor operations in that area ceased and Royal Tyrrell was notified.
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