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Dinosaur mummy astonishes scientists

December 03, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — One of the most complete dinosaur mummies ever found is revealing secrets locked away for millions of years, bringing researchers as close as they will ever get to touching a live dino.

The fossilized duck-billed hadrosaur is so well preserved that scientists have been able to calculate its muscle mass and learn that it was more muscular than thought, probably giving it the ability to outrun predators such as Tyrannosaurus rex.

Though they call it a mummy, the dinosaur is not preserved the way King Tut was. The dinosaur body has been fossilized into stone. Unlike the collections of bones found in museums, this hadrosaur came complete with skin, ligaments, tendons and possibly some internal organs, according to researchers.

The study is not yet complete, but scientists have concluded that hadrosaurs were bigger -- 3 1/2 tons and up to 40 feet long -- and stronger than had been known, were quick and flexible, and had skin with scales that may have been striped.

"It's unbelievable when you look at it for the first time," said paleontologist Phillip Manning of Manchester University in England. "There is depth and structure to the skin. The level of detail expressed in the skin is just breathtaking."

The fossil was found in 1999 in North Dakota and is nicknamed Dakota. It is being analyzed in the world's largest CT scanner.

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