Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Mummified Dinosaur

This is as cool as it gets:

Scientists revealed Monday a partly "mummified" dinosaur, complete with fossilized skin and muscles, an incredibly rare find that sheds new light on the species that once ruled the Earth.

The remains of the duck-billed Hadrosaur were first discovered in 1999 by a schoolboy in a treasure trove of fossils called Hell Creek, in North Dakota, and were brought to the attention of British paleontologist Phil Manning.

The level of preservation is, apparently, unheard of.

Armed with that three-dimensional insight into Dakota's muscle mass, the scientists have estimated that its backside was 25 percent larger than previously thought for a Hadrosaur.

With a larger rear end, it could have reached top speeds of 45 kilometers per hour (28 miles per hour) -- quick enough to outrun a T. rex.

Dakota's skin envelope also suggested evidence of stripes that would have produced a camouflage pattern, also handy for evading predators.

Because the Hadrosaur was so well preserved, the researchers could more accurately estimate the spacing between its vertebrae, giving a gap of about one centimeter (0.4 inches) between each bone.

This is one of those fantastic discoveries that drives a discipline forward by leaps and bounds.

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