The Preserved Dinosaur

This perfectly preserved dinosaur is a nodosaur and is scientists’ best look at the appearance of cretaceous-era dinosaurs. Casual onlookers at the Royal Tyrell Museum might think the specimen is merely a sculpture, but they’re really looking at a 110-million-year-old dinosaur in the face.


This incredible fossil was discovered by Shawn Funk in 2011, at the Millennium Mine, 17 miles north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

In early March, his excavator hit something much harder than he was used to. Shawn had run into bits of petrified wood before, but nothing like this.

Inspecting the large, strange gray and brown stones, Shawn and his supervisor, Mike Gratton, thought it might be ribs or a petrified tree stump.

“We gotta get this checked out.” –Mike Gratton, excavation supervisor

Later they found out they had found the remains of an 18-foot, 3,000-pound nodosaur.

nodosaur render

A 3-D render of a nodosaur.


Researchers believe the dinosaur originally fossilized whole but were only able to recover the front half of its torso.

To reveal this preserve dinosaurs scaly mug, technicians at the Royal Tyrell Museum have managed to carefully remove the rock surrounding the fossil’s face. The process took 6 years of gently scraping needle-sized jackhammers to prepare the fossil for exhibition and study.

This isn’t just a skeleton or a rendering of what scientists think a dinosaur might have looked like. It’s actually what a dinosaur looked like.

Next to its head, shoulders, and hip is an opened paw where you can count the scales on the sole of its foot.


While a few other dinosaurs have been discovered with soft tissues preserved before, they have always been damaged by their environment. Feathered dinosaurs in  China were squished flat, and duck-billed dinosaurs mummified in North America became shrunken and withered.

This specimen was slightly crushed, but apparently, its strong armor helped it withstand deformity over its 110-million-year slumber.

This particular dinosaur is also a new species of nodosaur. Unlike its more famous cousin who wielded a tail club, this creature only defended itself from predators using the spikes on its back.

perfectly preserved dinosaur fosssil

From the Royal Tyrell Museum (via Facebook)

How Did It Die?

While many people are surprised to hear about a dinosaur hailing from the wintry reaches of Canada, the nodosaur’s contemporary weather would have been warm and humid.

Forensic experts theorize it once looked over the ocean before being swept up in a flood, floating belly-up as it was carried out to sea, and eventually burst after being bloated with gasses and sank to the sea floor to be covered in mud and be rediscovered in 2010.

Incredibly, if the perfectly preserved dinosaur had drifted just a few more feet out to sea, it would have been off of the mining company’s property, and never even discovered!