More specifically, it was the snout-to-hips portion of a nodosaur, a "member of the heavily-armored ankylosaur subgroup", that roamed during the Cretaceous Period, according to Smithsonian. The exhibit has already opened for the public, so all who are interested can go and see the unbelievable fossils. What looked like walnut brown rocks turned out to be the fossilized remains of an 110-million-years-old nodosaur. An unsuspecting excavator operator uncovered the historic discovery while digging in an oil sands mine, according to the museum's news release about the exhibit. According to the researchers, it was on a river's edge, probably drinking water, when a flood swept it away.
Experts say that usual dinosaur fossils have teeth and bones, but the nodosaur even has the features of its scale armor.
The researchers have had their share of ups and downs, with the fossil breaking into pieces upon its removal from Alberta's Millennium Mine in 2011.
"I've been calling this one the Rosetta stone for armor", Donald Henderson, the dinosaur curator at the museum, said. The discovery pushed him to contact a geologist.
The fossil was discovered in Alberta's oilsands in 2011. He noted that its skeleton remains mostly obscured in skin and armor, and as the dinosaur is nearly too well preserved, examining the bones would require destroying its outer layers. Scientists who have studied the mummified nodosaur believe it was likely fossilized entirely intact, though they are not sure what happened to its bottom part. Brinkman even described the nodosaur as a "dinosaur mummy". Usually, the plates of armor, or osteoderms, of nodosaurs get scattered about as the animal decayed after death, but with the fossilized example found in Alberta, the plates of armor were preserved. With the specimen so well preserved, the guesswork was completely removed from a typically arduous process of reassembling the bony plates of the creature. These fossils maintain a shape that is so near to life that it "might have been walking around a couple of weeks ago", Jakob Vinther, a paleobiologist, told National Geographic. Chemical tests conducted on the nodosaur's skin have hinted at the presence of red pigments, which contrasts with the horns' light coloration. Scientists working to prepare the specimen for its debut at the Royal Tyrrell Museum spent over 7,000 hours preparing the fossil for research and public display.
Thousands of cubic metres of soil, gravel, and bedrock are excavated in Alberta every year through road construction, urban development, mining and other industrial activity.
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