Fossil Hunters Uncover Rare Dinosaur Skin Dinosaur bones are pretty rare ... but even more unusual is dinosaur skin. Paleontologists working in North Dakota have unearthed the remains of a hadrosaur with much of its fossilized skin still intact. They hope it will offer insights into how these creatures lived, and what they really looked like.
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Fossil Hunters Uncover Rare Dinosaur Skin

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Fossil Hunters Uncover Rare Dinosaur Skin

Fossil Hunters Uncover Rare Dinosaur Skin

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, Host:

One such dinosaur was discovered in North Dakota, and now a decade later, scientists are revealing what that dinosaur is telling them. NPR's Christopher Joyce has the straight skinny on Dakota, the Dino Mummy.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE: A high school student found the buried fossil in the Badlands of North Dakota. He called in an expert to help him dig it up. That was Phillip Manning, a paleontologist from the University of Manchester in England. When they dug deeper, Manning saw something that shocked him.

PHILLIP MANNING: It was absolutely covered in what looked to be mineralized skin.

JOYCE: With support from the National Geographic Society, Manning organized a dig that took several years. They gradually uncovered a hadrosaur, a 25-foot- long dinosaur known as the cow of the Cretaceous. A duck-billed lumbering plant-eater, they called it Dakota.

MANNING: This looked like it had depth and structure to the skin, and that's what got us really excited. Almost the nail clippings are still present. The tail is three-dimensional, intact. The skin is a like a cone of skin slipped over the skeleton. It's beautiful. The arm is just - it's like shaking hands with a dinosaur. The three-dimensional skin envelope runs all the way around from the hand up to its armpit. It's quite remarkable.

JOYCE: The surface of the mineralized skin has a geometric pattern, like the outside of a soccer ball. That's what the hadrosaur's skin would have look like in life, and Manning says even the inside of the skin is preserved.

MANNING: You slice through the skin, and you can see original cell boundaries, which have been locked in the calcium carbonate cement of this remarkable fossil. And that, for me, is an absolute gob-smacking moment when we look at that for the first time.

JOYCE: Derek Briggs is a paleontologist at Yale University who specializes in looking for so-called soft tissue from long-extinct animals and plants.

DEREK BRIGGS: Our analytical and imagining facilities are becoming much more sophisticated at a very rapid rate, and that's yielding all sorts of exciting, new results about the chemistry and appearance of these kinds of animals.

JOYCE: Christopher Joyce, NPR News.

GREENE: You're probably now curious to see what fossilized dinosaur skin looks like, so you should go to npr.org.

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