Scientists announced the discovery of an extremely well-preserved 67 million year old dinosaur mummy that contains fossilized bones, skin tissue and possibly even muscle and organs.
Preserved by a natural fluke of time and chemistry, the four-ton mummified hadrosaur, a duck-billed herbivore common to North America, could reshape the understanding of dinosaurs and their habitat, its finders say.
"There is no doubt about it that this dinosaur is a very, very significant find," said Tyler Lyson, a graduate student in geology at Yale University who discovered the dinosaur in North Dakota.
"To say we are excited would be an understatement," said Phil Manning, a paleontologist at England's University of Manchester who is leading the examination. "When I first saw it in the field, (I thought) 'Shiiiit, that's a really well preserved dinosaur.' It has the potential to be a top-10 dinosaur, globally."
Nicknamed Dakota, the hadrosaur is one of only five naturally preserved dinosaur mummies ever discovered. Unlike previous dinosaur mummies, which typically involve skin impressions pressed into bones, Dakota's entire skin envelope appears to remain largely intact.
"The skin has been mineralized," said Manning. "It is an actual three-dimensional structure, backfilled with sediment."
The fidelity of the envelope, he said, raises the possibility that Dakota could contain other soft-tissue remnants, including muscles and organs.