Hello! We are palaeontologists from the Royal Tyrrell Museum and are
currently studying the best preserved armoured dinosaur in the world.
Ask us anything!
Hello, we are scientists from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
in Drumheller, Alberta Canada. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is Canada’s only
museum dedicated exclusively to the science of paleontology and has one
of the world’s largest collections of fossils, with over 160,000
specimens in our research collection. Dr. Donald Henderson is the
Curator of Dinosaurs. Donald’s research focus is all about dinosaurs.
His research has focused on a variety of different subjects, such as the
rates of fossil erosion in Dinosaur Provincial Park, biomechanical
comparison of the bite force and skull strengths in ceratopsian
dinosaurs, and dinosaur buoyancy. Dr. Caleb Brown is the Betsy Nicholls
Post-Doctoral Fellow. Caleb’s research investigates taphonomy,
specifically the role of depositional environments in shaping our
understanding of ancient ecosystems, and the morphological variation in
the horns and ornamentation structures of horned dinosaurs. In 2011, a
worker at the SUNCOR Millennium Mine near Fort McMurray unearthed a
significant specimen and contacted the Museum. We dispatched a team to
extract it and discovered that it was a dinosaur. This was unusual
because the rock around Fort McMurray is part of the Clearwater
Formation, which is the sediment of an inland sea that covered Alberta
during the Cretaceous Period. Generally, only fossils of marine reptiles
and other marine species are found in that area. We discovered that the
specimen was a nodosaur, a type of armoured dinosaur that does not have
a tail club. It took five and a half years to prepare the specimen and
it is the best preserved armoured dinosaur ever found, as well as being
the oldest dinosaur known from Alberta at approximately 112 million
years old. Named Borealopelta markmitchelli, this nodosaur is preserved
in 3-Dimensions with the body armour and scales in place, as well as
organic residues that were once part of the skin, giving us an idea what
it looked like when alive. National Geographic has done a 3D interactive
model of the specimen that shows you how well preserved this specimen
is. We assembled a research team with colleagues from the US and UK,
bringing in geochemists to help analyze the fossil skin. Geochemical
tests showed an abundance of preserved organic molecules. Among them is
benzothiazole, a component of the pigment pheomelanin, suggesting that
Borealopelta might have been reddish-brown when alive. These findings
were published in Current Biology this past August and are open access.
New research by Caleb published in PeerJ (open access) on November 29,
analyzes the bony cores and keratinous sheaths that make up the body
armour. Due to the unique preservation of soft tissue, Caleb was able to
analyze the relation between the horn core and the keratinous sheath,
and compare the horn sheaths to the horns of living mammals and lizards.
Ask us anything about Borealopelta, our research, palaeontology,
dinosaurs, or the Royal Tyrrell Museum! We will be back at 2 p.m. EST to
answer questions. EDIT: Thank you for all your questions! We will be
checking back over the next week to answer any new ones.