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The skin of a mummified dinosaur was gnashed by ancient Crocs

Skin from a 67-million-year-old dinosaur revealed bites and gashes of an ancient crocodile. This may help explain why the dinosaur was mummified.

It is much harder for skin to decay than bone, so fossilized dinosaur skin is extremely rare.

A 7-meter (23-foot-long) Edmontosaurus, a plant-eating dinosaur, was discovered near Marmarth, North Dakota in 1999. This new research has shed light on the factors that allowed the skin to survive the eons.

“The bite marks were surprising. “The bite marks were unexpected. It was thought that soft tissue would not preserve if it is damaged before burial. So the carnivore destruction is what got us thinking about how fossils form.” Stephanie Drumheller-Horton, a paleontologist from The University of Tennessee’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, was a co-author of this new study.

Paleontologists believed that dinosaurs, or any other prehistoric creature, had to be buried quickly to preserve soft tissue. But this was not true for this poor hadrosaur.

Researchers believe bite marks were left by an old relative of a Crocodile on the hadrosaur’s arm. However, they don’t know what type of animal clawed or gnashed its tail. It is not known if the hadrosaur’s tail and arm were killed by it, or if they were caused by scavengers.

Drumheller-Horton said that it was only the dinosaur’s misfortune that allowed its skin to survive.

“To put it in the most disgusting way possible, puncturing the skin allowed for the gases and liquids that are associated with decomposition to escape. The skin that was hollowed out could then be dried out. This naturally mummified skin can survive for several weeks to months even in very wet environments. The longer it stays, the more likely it will be buried and fossilized.” she explained.

It is not believed that the fossilized skin’s bluish color represents what it was like when the dinosaur lived. It could have been affected by the high iron content of the rocks used in fossilization.

Although often shown as greenish-gray, the true color of most dinosaurs is not known. Some feathers of fossilized dinosaurs were quite colorful, according to studies.

However, the hadrosaur skin has given a lot of information about the scale patterns and size of the dinosaur’s body, as well as the amount of muscle mass. This is based on the area of the skin.

Clint Boyd (a senior paleontologist at North Dakota Geological Survey) said that skin is more likely to decay than bones. Therefore, it takes different, less well-known processes to preserve the skin for long enough to be buried or fossilized.

He stated that perhaps 20 dinosaur “mummies” were known to exist, each containing complete or nearly complete sets with soft tissue.

Boyd stated via email that he had found only one preserved skin impression (an imprint of skin and not actual preserved skin) in his career.

The research was published in PLOS One on Wednesday.

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