It took scientists nearly 7,000 hours to exhume what some researchers are now calling the ‘Mona Lisa’ of dinosaurs.
A report released Thursday described the 110-million-year-old creature as “the best-preserved armored dinosaur ever found, and one of the best dinosaur specimens in the world.”
Shawn Funk, a mining machine operator in Alberta, Canada, stumbled on the 18-foot-long fossilized creature in 2011, according to AFP. The new species has been dubbed Borealopelta markmitchelli, in honor of Mark Mitchell, the museum technician who spent thousands of hours unearthing the specimen.
Caleb Brown, lead author of the report and a scientist at the Royal Tyrell Museum, told AFP the dinosaur is “one of the most beautiful” ever found.
“If you just squint your eyes a bit, you could almost believe it was sleeping,” Brown said.
Weighing nearly 3,000 pounds, the specimen is covered in well-preserved, scaly skin, leading researchers to believe it was a plant-eating ‘megaherbivore.’
Using a chemical analysis of the dinosaur’s scales, the team determined the species had reddish-brown pigmented skin. It most likely employed a method of camouflage known as countershading, in which the surface skin is darker than the skin on the underside of the body.
The dinosaur’s countershading method surprised researchers, as this type of camouflage is often used today by smaller animals such as penguins, armadillos and deer. This led the team to conclude the scaly creature faced substantial threats from considerably large carnivores.
“Strong predation on a massive, heavily-armored dinosaur illustrates just how dangerous the dinosaur predators of the Cretaceous must have been,” Brown said.
The research team hopes to study the dinosaur’s gut contents for clues regarding its last meal.
The specimen was first unveiled in May and is currently on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta.