Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Introducing Yet Another Dino Mummy!

The plant-eating Psittacosaurus had a thick layer of shark-like skin hidden under scales or feathers.

Palaeontologists believe this tough outer coating supported the dinosaur's organs and protected it from predators.

Tooth marks suggest the dinosaur was torn open by a scavenger, giving a unique insight into their biology, 100 million years after this one's death.

The research is published in the Royal Society's journal Proceedings B.


The bipedal herbivore, which grew to about the size of a gazelle, had tough, scaly skin with more than 25 layers of collagen - similar to that of today's sharks, reptiles and dolphins.


The specimen comes from an area of China that has yielded a treasure trove of uniquely-preserved fossils.

"Discoveries like this from China are certainly churning out new surprises," commented Mark Witton of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Portsmouth, UK.

"To have the skin folded on the fossil so that you can see the cross section through it is remarkable."

He said the skin of the dinosaur would have been "incredibly tough" and probably served to protect the animal from attack by predators.


The Chinese specimen appears to have met its match during the life and death struggles of the Lower Cretaceous.

Tooth marks and fractures in the skin suggest it was attacked by another dinosaur, and then covered by sediment rapidly after its demise, allowing soft tissue to be preserved in remarkable detail.

And here I thought that dino mummies were rare. Silly me. ;)

Is this our first ceratopsian mummy?


Julia said...

Nope - there's a Triceratops from WY. I was lucky enough to help dig it up nearly six years ago. It's only been presented as a poster so far (don't know if it'll make it into the primary literature - I'll send you the abstract and fill you in further on why).

Will Baird said...

do tell! do tell!

Julia said...

Abstract on its way (had to manually copy it from the JVP abstract volume as it won't let me copy and paste). It's a really nice specimen, half a dozen patches of skin (but not too much nevertheless). The throat is really good. I should have some photos at home, which I'll e-mail to you too.

Zach said...

SHARK scales? Okay, I'm wary of horrible media comparisons as is, but I'm gonna need to see it to believe it. I'm heading over to the Royal Society website as I type! Thanks for the heads-up, Will!