Rare Late Cretaceous dino skin found fossilized

by Mary Caperton Morton
Wednesday, January 25, 2017

About 66 million years ago, a dinosaur lay down on a muddy riverbank in what is now Spain, leaving behind the impression of its scaly skin. A team studying sandstone formations near the village of Vallcebre in the Pyrenees recently uncovered the unique artifact, made even more extraordinary by the timing of when it was left: right before the end-Cretaceous extinction that wiped out the nonavian dinosaurs.

The team actually found two impressions: one measuring 20 centimeters wide and the other five centimeters wide, separated by a gap of 1.5 meters. The two impressions show similar patterns of scales — with raised central hexagonal bumps surrounded by other bumps that fit together like tiles — and were likely made by the same animal, the team reported in Geological Magazine. The large size of the scales indicates the animal may have been a large sauropod: “maybe a titanosaurus, since we discovered footprints from the same species very close to the rock with the skin fossil,” said lead author Victor Fondevilla of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, in a statement.

The skin impression was preserved when sand filled the impression left in the mud and later lithified into sandstone; the fossil is actually a relief of the animal’s original skin. “This is the only registry of dinosaur skin from this period in all of Europe, and it corresponds to one of the most recent specimens, closer to the extinction event,” Fondevilla said.

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