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Paleontologists unearth remarkably preserved dinosaur fossils

Updated: Nov 21, 2023 By Liang Shuang Print
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The archaeological site in Fengning Man autonomous county, Chengde, North China's Hebei province, where two well-preserved dinosaur fossils were discovered. [Photo provided to]

Scientists have unearthed two remarkably preserved dinosaur fossils belonging to a renowned group of creatures that roamed the Earth around 130 million years ago.

The fossils, discovered in Fengning, Hebei province, represent a ceratopsian, a type of horned dinosaur, and a stegosaur, a dinosaur with shield-like bone plates on its back. Their meticulous preservation offers valuable insights into the evolutionary history and adaptations of these ancient creatures.

The ceratopsian skeleton, found in 2017, is nearly intact, providing a crucial missing link in understanding the evolutionary trajectory of ceratopsians. "The bones will provide key evidence in the route of their changes over generations," said Zhang Fucheng, a professor at Linyi University's Institute of Geology and Paleontology and leader of the excavation team.

The stegosaur fossil is particularly exceptional, featuring a rare and extensive skin fossil that covers approximately 3 square meters of ground and a 5-meter-long bone.

This exceptional preservation is likely attributed to the dinosaur's death near a pond, where its body was submerged and protected from scavengers before being encased in volcanic ash.

"Dinosaur skin and flesh, as they would decay quickly, may become fossils under extremely special conditions," explained Zhang Fucheng. "The level of preservation of the stegosaur skin fossil and the area it covered is very rare worldwide."

The stegosaur's skin, covered in scale-like structures, not only served as a protective layer but also helped regulate its body temperature, allowing it to adapt to a wider range of environmental conditions.

The discovery of the stegosaur also challenges previous assumptions about the distribution of this dinosaur group. "This finding suggests that stegosaurs may have been more prevalent in the early Cretaceous Period than previously thought," said Guo Ying, an associate professor at Linyi University's Institute of Geology and Paleontology.

Researchers plan to utilize these remarkable fossils to create detailed models and reconstruct scenes from the dinosaurs' lives, further deepening understanding of these fascinating creatures.

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