Friday, October 26, 2012

Bringing Back the Dinosaurs... Sort Of...

Picture of a hadrosaur based off of findings from the dinosaur mummy "Leonardo".
In our last post we discussed how it has recently been discovered that some dinosaur fossils contain remnants of soft dinosaur tissue. In this post we will discuss the discovery of a fossilized dinosaur mummy.  Specifically, this dinosaur is a hydrosaur, or a duckbilled dinosaur, that died and was quickly buried in sediments before it could decay.  The burial process mummified the dinosaur, preventing decay and eventually the mummy was fossilized.  This dinosaur mummy is different from say human Egyptian mummies in that the dinosaur is actually fossilized and rock.  Egyptian mummies are simply well preserved tissues of the human that died.  As a result of the dinosaur mummy fossilizing, all of the parts of the dinosaur present in the mummy are still present today in rock form.  The process of fossilization of dinosaur mummies is exceedingly rare and have only been found a handful of times.  The awesome thing about mummies is that they preserve the soft tissues such as internal organs or skin which normally decay away long before any scientist can observe them.  The difficulty with fossilized mummies though is the fact that all of the soft tissues are now actually rock, which obviously is extremely difficult to dissect.  The documentary movie "Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy" shows how modern day paleontologists "dissected" Leonardo without hacking him up.  The movie is a great demonstration of real scientists doing real science.  As a result of the "dissection", the scientists were able to find out all kinds of interesting biology about the dinosaur.  Huge changes in what we believe about dinosaurs in how they look and how their body functions have come about because of the investigation shown in this movie.  Also interesting, since the movie has been filmed, soft tissues like we talked about in our last post also have been found in Leonardo. 

Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy
Actual fossilized dinosaur mummy "Leonardo".