Best Ever Ankylosaur found, according to reports in BBC News, Science (AAAS) News and ScienceDaily 3 August 2017 and Current Biology doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.06.071 published online 3 August 2017.

Scientists at the Royal Tyrell Museum in Canada have studied the fossil of an exquisitely preserved Ankylosaur, a squat short legged vegetarian dinosaur covered with thick scales and bony plates. It was found during excavation of an open pit oil sand mine in Alberta Canada. The specimen is 5.5m (18ft) long and the researchers estimate the dinosaur would have weighed approximately 1,300kg (2,800 pounds). Several plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs have been found in the same rock layer, but this is the first dinosaur to be found.

Caleb Brown, a scientist at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, described the specimen as being “truly remarkable in that it is completely covered in preserved scaly skin, yet is also preserved in three dimensions, retaining the original shape of the animal”. He went on to say: “The result is that the animal looks almost the same today as it did back in the Early Cretaceous. You don’t need to use much imagination to reconstruct it; if you just squint your eyes a bit, you could almost believe it was sleeping … It will go down in science history as one of the most beautiful and best preserved dinosaur specimens – the Mona Lisa of dinosaurs”.

The dinosaur has been named Borealopelta markmitchelli and is dated as 110 million years old.

The researchers claim it was so well preserved because it was washed into the sea, falling on its back onto the seabed where sediment rapidly formed a concretion around it preventing any damage by scavengers. The dinosaur’s skin is so well preserved the researchers were able to study the structure of the scales on its surface, and use a technique called line of flight mass spectrometry to identify organic chemicals in the preserved skin scales.

One of the chemicals they found was benzothiazole, a building block of a type of red-brown skin pigment named pheomelanin. They found the pigment was most intense on the back and it faded at the sides, so that the creature had a dark back and light underbelly. The researchers suggest this meant it had a countershading pattern for camouflage to help it hide from predators, in spite of the fact the creature is the size of a tank, complete with armour plating, and should not have been bothered by predators. They point out that similar sized creatures alive today, such as rhinos and elephants are ignored by predators and do not have countershading pigment patterns.

Jakob Vinther, University of Bristol, UK, who was also involved in the study, explained to the BBC, “Colour patterns can be used for sexual display, thermoregulation, communication and many other reasons. But, today, countershading is used for camouflage and we think that the new species had this type of pigment pattern to help it to hide from predators”.

Caleb Brown commented: “Strong predation on a massive, heavily-armored dinosaur illustrates just how dangerous the dinosaur predators of the Cretaceous must have been”. He also suggested “The most likely predator is a creature called Acrocathosaurus – a 10m-long, 6-tonne, animal that looked superficially like Tyrannosaurus rex, but was not closely related to it”.

BBC, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment:  All of the media reports about this dinosaur, along with the original report, concentrated on the camouflage interpretation, and ignored or glossed over the real significance of this fossil, i.e. the exquisite preservation of a large land creature mixed with large sea creatures, all in the same rock layer. For a creature this size to be rapidly buried it needs to be swept up and dumped in mass sediment.

The suggestion that the sediment rapidly formed a concretion around it is a good one. A concretion is formed by chemical processes turning the sediment solid, the same way modern man-made concrete is made today. Concrete does not form by slow gradual deposition, and does not go hard because of time. Furthermore, the rapid burial of this creature did not happen millions of years ago. If it really was 110 million years old, any organic molecules would have been leached out or degraded a long time ago.

Jakob Vinther’s comment about pigment colouring is correct – there are many reasons for pigment patterns and colours beside camouflage, such as species identification, mating signals, communication and thermoregulation. Therefore, there is no need to speculate about what predator may have been trying to eat a 1,300kg tank-like creature.

Camouflage is a typical evolutionist’s non-explanation for a feature in a living thing. Even if such a predator as Acrocathosaurus was present in the region where the Ankylosaur lived, that would not make the Ankylosaur manufacture pheomelanin or organise its distribution in the skin.

Rather than the result of evolutionary struggle for life, this fossil is good evidence for the Biblical history of the world. In the beginning Ankylosaurs were created as complete fully functioning creatures with pigment patterns for communication and thermoregulation – useful features in the original very good world, which did not have any predators. After the world degenerated because of human sin and God’s judgement some animals may have become predators, but that would not create colours and patterns in the prey animals. When God judged the earth by sending Noah’s flood, the Ankylosaur described above was swept up and dumped in a mass of sediment. The chemicals in the sediment and sea water rapidly turned the sediment solid, preserving the fine structure of any creatures contained in it.

Evidence News vol. 17, No. 16
23 August 2017
Creation Research Australia

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