Dinosaur "Mummy" Reveals a Creature With Bird-Like Skin

By Eliza Strickland | July 1, 2009 9:57 am

dinosaur skinThe duck-billed dinosaurs have been giving up their secrets lately. Just yesterday researchers revealed new details of how hadrosaurs chewed their food, using a set of teeth that look like a “cranial cuisinart.” Today, paleontologists have put the hadrosaur’s skin on display, thanks to a “mummified” creature that shows the shape of its soft tissue and cell-like structures.

Such a discovery was possible because the dinosaur’s skin fossilized before bacteria had a chance to eat up the tissue. It is “absolutely amazing to be able to identify organic molecules from soft tissue that belonged to a beast that died over 66 million years ago…. This is the closest you’re going to get to patting the animal” [National Geographic News], says lead researcher Phillip Manning.

For the study, which will be published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers used advanced imaging techniques to get under the hadrosaur’s skin. A study of the cell structures show that, like modern-day crocodiles and birds, the skin was made up of two layers: a surface epidermis against a deeper dermis layer made up of dense connective tissue. Although that finding is what might have been expected based on the presumed lineage of the modern animals, Dr Manning said it is “clean science” [BBC News] that further supports the theory that dinosaurs left behind some descendants.

The fossil of the hippo-sized creature was discovered in 1999 by a teenager digging in his family’s North Dakota property. The dinosaur, approximately 7.5 meters (25 feet) long, apparently died on the banks of a sandy channel, perhaps near the bend of a river, where its body was rapidly buried under accumulating sediment. The waterlogged soil entombed it in a mineral-rich soup before the body could decay much, thus ensuring highly detailed preservation [Scientific American].

Related Content:
80beats: Duck-Billed Dinosaur’s Shifting Teeth Were Like a “Cranial Cuisinart”
80beats: How Dinosaur Feet Evolved Into Bird Wings: New Fossil Provides Clues
80beats: To Attract Mates, This Dino May Have Shaken a Tail Feather
80beats: Stay-at-Home Dinosaur Dads May Have Hatched Eggs and Cared for Young

Image: P. Manning

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World
MORE ABOUT: dinosaurs
  • http://drvitelli.typepad.com Romeo Vitelli

    But does it taste like chicken?

  • Jumblepudding

    Now this is cool. I am wondering if this Hadrosaur mummy has any unfossilized organic material left in it, like that T-rex fossil that somebody cracked open and found pliable tissue.

  • http://www.super-science-fair-projects.com Astronomy Science Fair Projects

    Before watching a documentary on dinosaur mummies I didn’t realize that soft tissues of the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals could possibly be fossilized. Even the internal organs of a dinosaur were preserved in some very special cases. Kids working on science projects relating to paleontology need to ponder what conditions need to be present during the decomposition process to allow soft tissues to survive.

  • Jeff

    The creationista are going to be all over this one.

  • http://www.luhliesearthis5kyearsold.com luhlies

    66 million years pfft silly scientist needs to read the bible or he will go to hell! every christian knows the earth is only 6k years old. i bet this monkey’s uncle thinks the world isn’t flat and that the earth revolves around the sun.

  • Dun_Laoghaire

    I think there is a tiny misunderstanding. Not the world was created 6k years ago, but the forefathers of the creationists were created 6k years ago to make live difficult thereafter for the rest of humankind.

  • http://slideshare.netTheSecretLifeofRocks Steve culbreth

    I wish that more people could see what I see.We’re missing a huge un-tapped resource.

  • Electric Universe Dude

    “organic molecules from soft tissue that belonged to a beast that died over 66 million years ago”

    Yeah, sorry I just don’t buy that kind of nonsense even when it’s given out for free. Way more likely that this beastie and friends were a bit more contemporary in age than the prevailing theories allow. Let’s just say that carbon decay isn’t constant at all but an average and that all decay rates can be drastically effected (faster or slower) by changes in the electro-magnetic environment they find themselves in.

  • Electric Universe Dude

    And just for fun “waterlogged soil entombed it in a mineral-rich soup before the body could decay much, thus ensuring highly detailed preservation” sounds a lot like the Great Deluge of Noah and Gilgamesh fame… oh come on… you have to be open minded if you want true science to prevail. After all there’s more hard evidence for a worldwide flood than for black holes, dark energy, dark matter, neutron stars and the fantastical imaginings of mathematicians and so-called thought experimenters that attempt to justify and adjust failed theories like the “big bang” and the “standard model of the sun”. Not to mention specific and general relativity that confuses perception and reality in the most unscientific of ways.

  • http://slideshare.netTheSecretLifeofRocks Steve culbreth

    400 ft. of sea-level rise was quite enough to cause much inundation and Biblical observation, not to mention the very-similar depictions from aboriginal cultures. The ice-sheets left many scars in the earth which has enabled science to prove just what took place between 14,000 to 7,000 ya. Enough said about that! As far as preserved soft-tissue goes, there is new evidence to prove that the phenomenon is wide-spread, even global. If you have already checked-out The Secret Life of Rocks on Slideshare.net ,there’s more to see on photobucket.com ; type in Steve Culbreth or dinosaur eyes. Have a nice day1 The evolution of One’s self is Our greatest achievement. Rockhead.

  • nick

    Electric universe dude, you’re a flippant moron. i’m glad you can drop modern science ‘buzzwords’ to make your b.s. christian creationism argument seem more viable. good job! thank the many gods i can see through your nonsensical rants and discern my own truths without believing in your medieval ‘religion’. first it was dinosaus don’t exist at all, then it became ‘well, maybe they DO exist. (since a ghost in the sky placing their false remains in the earth just for kicks really doesn’t make any sense at all.)

    so what will you believe in a decade, you ponce? Man up and commit, and ever stay an ignorant fool.

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