Turns out all those CGI cats working on the “Jurassic Park” and “Lost World” films were pretty spot on. A mummified dinosaur uncovered in Montana looks shockingly like the creatures depicted on the big screen. Almost too much alike. Hey, wait a minute….
From the Judith River Dinosaur Institute
Fossil in the Flesh: A Spectacular
New Dinosaur Mummy
Contact: Nate L. Murphy (406) 654-2323
A rare mummified dinosaur has been discovered in Montana–the first found anywhere in the world in 70 years. “Leonardo,” a duckbill-type dinosaur, was fossilized in a unique way that preserved features of its skin and muscle, and even its last meal.
See photographs of Leonardo.
Leonardo is seven meters long and weighs around two tons, which shows that it was only about three years old when it died. It was discovered by volunteers on a program of the Judith River Dinosaur Institute and Phillips County Museum in Malta, Montana during the summer of 2000.
Some of Leonardo’s startling features include a three-dimensional rock cast of the right shoulder muscle and throat tissue, along with fossilized skin and stomach contents. The muscle casts will shed new light on dinosaur appearance and movement, and the stomach contents will add to information on Late Cretaceous environments.
Nate Murphy, curator of paleontology at the Phillips County Museum, said that only three mummified dinosaurs have ever been found, and all were excavated early in the 20th century. “The techniques of that time did not allow for the study of the more delicate features, many of which were inadvertently destroyed. This specimen gives us a chance to apply more modern scientific techniques to answer old questions.”
But Leonardo had a further surprise in store. Contrary to what people generally assume about mummies, its features suggest that his body did not dry out before burial.
Dave Trexler, paleontologist with Timescale Adventures in Bynum, Montana and co-author on Leonardo’s technical description, said, “We think that it was buried in wet river sand around 77 million years ago and much of the flesh was intact when fossilization started. The pollen from its stomach also shows that the environment was too wet for much desiccation to take place before burial.”
Mark Thompson, third co-author of the technical paper, who was a member of the discovery team and who worked on preparing the specimen, adds, “A very rare sequence of events was necessary for this type of preservation to occur. It is a once-in-a-lifetime find.”
For more information, contact Nate Murphy at 406-654-2323 or e-mail, [email protected]; David Trexler at 406-466-5232 or e-mail, [email protected]; or Mark Thompson at 406-654-1037 or e-mail, [email protected]
More information is also available at www.montanadinosaurdigs.com/brachleo.htm.