This 110 million-year-old animal was preserved at the bottom of an ancient sea in what is now Alberta, Canada until 2011 when it was accidentally found by miners.
Scientists surmise the entire body was fossilized but they were able to unearth just the front half of the specimen. The herbivorous nodosaur was in the same family as the famous tail-club wielding ankylosaurs, but was bereft of the characteristic club. The armored beast measured 18 feet in length and weighed over 3,000 pounds.
Its most distinguishing characteristics were the two nearly two-foot-long spikes that protruded from its shoulders, serving as its primary defensive mechanisms against predators.
Scientists surmise the animal was swept away in a flood and pushed to the bottom of a seabed, where mineralization ensured the nodosaur’s preservation throughout the ages and layers of rock that eventually settled upon its body.
This specimen provides some exciting insight into the analysis of nodosaur armor, as even the osteoderms and scales in between the armor remain intact.
After its recovery just north of Fort McMurray, fossil preparator Mark Mitchell spent thousands of hours over a five year period uncovering the fossil’s skin and bone. Scientists have also been attempting to gather information from CT scans of the animal, but thus far the pictures remain too opaque.