Insights From Rare Mummified Dinosaur Skin

Insights into the Mesozoic era usually come from fossilized bones, making the preserved skin of “Dakota”—a duck-billed dinosaur from an Edmontosaurus specimen—particularly rare. The finding, discovered in South Dakota in 1999, is uncommon because skin is trickier than bones to preserve but new research makes the discovery even more peculiar. Previously, scientists believed that preserved soft tissue had to be buried immediately after death or contained within dry surroundings. Instead, a new study indicates that the mummified skin was left in a wet environment, out in the open at the mercy of scavenging carnivores—but their bites created pathways for liquids and gases to leave the corpse, enabling mummification. “The skin itself is a very deep brown, almost brownish black, and it actually has a bit of a shine to it because it has so much of that iron in it,” says Mindy Householder, a co-author of the study. Learn more about this glittery dinosaur skin at Smithsonian Magazine.

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