Animals have entirely changed the way they live nowadays. On Thursday, researchers have found proof of how some dinosaurs protected themselves from predators.

In March 2011, a mining machine operator working at the Suncor Millennium Mine in Alberta, Canada, named Shawn Funk accidentally discovered an incredible 18-foot-long fossil (5.5 meters) of a nodosaur, better-preserved than any other of its kind.

Image Credit: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology
Image Credit: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology

According to a study published in Current Biology, these herbivores had the necessity of camouflaging themselves and hide from predator’s eyes; since not even their big horns and their tough skin full of spikes were they entirely protected from ferocious carnivores.

Scientists and researchers discovered for the first time a little bit of color in this specimen; chemical traces of pheomelanin, known for being the same pigment that gives redheads their hair color.

This finding is considered to be huge and spectacular for how well preserved this fossil is. According to Current Biology, this is “the best-preserved armored dinosaur ever found, and one of the best dinosaur specimens in the world.” Different from other fossils, not only the bones were fossilized, but the skin also. It actually looks like a statue.

How they protected themselves 

Although this creature ate only plants, it was a real fighter. It is impressive the way its skin evolved with huge hard spikes; it represented a real threat for carnivorous type dinosaurs. It employed a technique used nowadays by modern-day animals, known as countershading.

Countershading is used by animals like deer, zebras, and armadillos, but they are much smaller and vulnerable than the Borealopelta. This trait shows the real struggle they faced to survive.

Countershading on a penguin. From above, the animal blends with shadows; from below, with the sunlight. Image Credit: Mrs Bursk's Science Class
Countershading on a penguin. From above, the animal blends with shadows; from below, with the sunlight. Image Credit: Mrs. Bursk’s Science Class

“Strong predation on a massive, heavily-armored dinosaur illustrates just how dangerous the dinosaur predators of the Cretaceous must have been,” said Caleb Brown, the lead scientist from the Royal Tyrrell Museum, where the creature is on display.

The nodosaur lived  110 million years ago and weighed more than 2,800 pounds (1,300 kilograms), and was dark brown and red on the top, and a lighter shade on the bottom. The Borealopelta was part of a group of dinosaurs known for their size, similar to tanks, named ankylosaurs.

“The further you went toward the belly, the less and less of this stuff there was. It was darker pigmented on top and lighter on the bottom. If you just squint your eyes a bit, you could almost believe it was sleeping,” said Brown. “It will go down in science history as one of the most beautiful and best-preserved dinosaur specimens — the Mona Lisa of dinosaurs.”

This creature is considered to be a new kind of nodosaur, coined Borealopelta markmitchelli, after the museum technician who spent more than 7,000 hours removing rocks from around the specimen, Mark Mitchell.

The sea once covered the region where the nodosaur was found in Alberta, Canada. Researchers hypothesize that the dinosaur fell into the sea and floated for a long time until it sank and died.

Source: The Washington Post