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Back in 2011, Shawn Funk, a heavy-equipment operator, was just doing his job, carving his way through the earth at the Millennium Mine, a vast pit some 17 miles north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Funk was used to seeing ancient life — his machine regularly scooped up sands laced with bitumen—the transmogrified remains of marine plants and creatures that lived and died more than 110 million years ago, writes National Geographic. In 12 years of digging, Funk had found fossilized wood and the occasional petrified tree stump. But on March 11, his bucket hit something harder than the surrounding rock, and upon further inspection, found row after row of sandy brown disks. What they found is an actual dinosaur and the best-preserved fossil of its kind.
“We don’t just have a skeleton,” Caleb Brown, a postdoctoral researcher at the museum, told National Geographic. “We have a dinosaur as it would have been.”
This amazing level of fossilization is as rare as winning the lottery for a paleontologist. This dinosaur is so well preserved that it “might have been walking around a couple of weeks ago,” said Paleobiologist Jakob Vinther, an expert on animal coloration from the U.K.’s University of Bristol, to Nat Geo. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
The fossil is a newfound species (and genus) of a nodosaur. Nodosaurs had thorny armor to deter predators. They lived between 110 million and 112 million years ago, and measured around 18-feet-long and weighed nearly 3,000 pounds. It was basically a grumpy herbivore that mainly kept to itself, Nat Geo writes, but it had two 20-inch-long spikes jutting out of its shoulders just in case something bothered it.Read the full story at National Geographic