CANADA Partial platypus fossil exposed from the cliff, revealing the skin with a grainy texture resembling a basketball.A research team in Alberta, Canada, was amazed to unearth a fossil of a herbivorous platypus dinosaur with an almost complete skeleton, even patches of skin still intact, Live Science reported on September 6.
Finding dinosaur fossils that still preserve soft tissue is extremely rare. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Brian J. Pickles, an associate professor of ecology at the University of Reading, UK. He was surveying Alberta with some students.
The 4-meter-long duckbill dinosaur died about 76 million years ago, where a complex river system flowed during the Cretaceous period (66 – 145 million years ago). This area is now the Alberta Dinosaur Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 400-500 dinosaur skeletons and skulls ever discovered.
Pickles argues that the abundance of sandstone and alluvium that covered the fossil helped preserve it perfectly. Fossils include a large tail and a hind leg exposed from the rock surface.
“I think the specimen was covered pretty quickly, otherwise it wouldn’t have been so well preserved. You can see the vertebrae and tendons. When you get closer, you’ll see some scales. Its skin. dark, scaly, and has a basketball-like texture,” explains Pickles.Adult platypuses are usually at least twice as large as the Alberta specimen. That shows the specimen is still young, which makes it extra special. “It’s very rare to find immature fossils because normally, dinosaurs evolved quite quickly. We usually only find fossils of large ones,” Pickles said.
The researchers believe that an intact dinosaur skeleton will be hidden in the cliff, but can not confirm for sure until the excavation is complete. “To date, we’ve removed about 100 tons of rock to expose the fossil,” Pickles said.
“Finding such a specimen is extremely important, as it tells a lot more about the animal than a fossil just bones. Of course, finding bones is also amazing, but the skin and soft tissues carry more information about the ecology of these creatures. They were not mobile skeletons millions of years ago. They are animals that live and breathe,” he added.
Once excavated, the platypus fossil will become part of the collection at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, northeast of Calgary, Canada.