A new fossil exhibit in Drumheller is showcasing one of the country’s best-preserved dinosaurs found near Fort McMurray.
Back in 2011, an employee at the Suncor Millennium Mine north of Fort McMurray spotted the fossil while excavating. What he found was the oldest dinosaur ever dug up Alberta, an 112 million-year-old Nodosaur.
Only two-thirds of the fossil was salvaged but what paleontologists discovered was the world’s best-preserved armored dinosaur.
“The first thing we could see is the impact crater where the body just slammed the seabed, the top side down, and that’s what preserved it so well, it was pressed into the mud,” said Donald Henderson, Curator of Dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
The Nodosaur is estimated to be about 5.5 metres long, 1.8 metres wide and weighing around 1.5 tonnes.
Henderson says the size and preservation are the main reasons for why it took around six years to be displayed.
“Most fossils of anything are squashed flat, being buried under hundreds of metres of rocks for millions of years but this thing is basically 3D, it was protected by, we’re calling it, a sarcophagus so as soon as the carcass hit the seabed minerals started growing around it,” said Henderson.
He adds the museum also found the original organic skin material, with the outlines of the scales still noticeable. Henderson says this is the best preservation of skin the world has ever seen.
The fossil is the centerpiece of the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s new exhibit “Grounds for Discovery” which is now open to the public.