Armored Dinosaur’s Last Meal Found Preserved in Its Fossilized Belly

This armored dinosaur is a paleontologist’s desire. Named Borealopelta in 2017, the dinosaur’s fossil preserves a fantastic offer of its bony armor in place. In fact, the animal is so intricately preserved that paleontologists have been equipped to get the job done out the dinosaur’s coloration — rusty purple earlier mentioned and lighter below. But the so-termed “northern shield” nevertheless has strategies to reveal. Within the dinosaur, guarded by its bones, are the remnants of the ankylosaur’s past meal.

Paleontologists know relatively minimal about what dinosaurs actually experienced for lunch. For carnivorous animals, the essential proof typically will come from bitten bones and petrified poop that has bone shards and muscle fibers.

Between herbivores, fossil feces can slender down a couple of menu options, but fossilized gut contents have been much more contentious. It can be difficult to convey to irrespective of whether tatters of crops observed inside of a plant-feeding on dinosaur’s skeleton were remnants of a past meal — or basically transpired to get blended in with the sediment that buried the animal. Just this year, in fact, the gut contents observed in a duckbill dinosaur turned out to be prehistoric compost blended in amid the bones during preservation.

“Dinosaurs that become fossils typically get buried in the mud or in river channels,” suggests Caleb Brown of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. These situation can make confounding associations of bones and the product inside of, which may or may not be the contents of the petrified dinosaur’s abdomen.

But Brown suggests this specimen stands aside — and is the greatest-supported scenario for abdomen contents in an herbivorous dinosaur. “And it has the most detail about revealing what the diet plan was,” he provides. Brown and colleagues have published their examine this 7 days in Royal Modern society Open Science.

A Dinosaur’s Past Meal

Borealopelta side view

The Borealopelta fossil on display at the Royal Tyrell Museum in Alberta, Canada. (Credit: Etemenanki3/Wikimedia Commons)

Out of sixteen requirements that Brown and co-authors developed to ascertain irrespective of whether the crops were actually gut contents or not, Borealopelta matched fourteen of the related characteristics.

And despite going as a result of the to start with 50 percent of the dinosaur’s digestive tract, the plant product remained shockingly very well preserved. “We embedded fragments of the abdomen written content mass in resin, sliced them, polished them right until translucent, and seemed at them beneath the microscope,” Brown suggests. The crops were preserved down to the cellular degree, allowing for the paleontologists to be much more precise about what types of veggies the ankylosaur ate. Prior to dying, Borealopelta wolfed down lower-lying ferns, with some cycads and a minimal little bit of conifer thrown in.

“What I like about this examine is that it confirms some of the suggestions proposed about several decades about the common form of foods ankylosaurs were feeding on, even though offering us a significantly much more precise thought of the precise crops that manufactured up the diet plan of Borealopelta,” suggests Victoria Arbour, a paleontologist at the Royal BC Museum.

These dinosaurs were quadrupeds, with heads lower to the floor and relatively weak jaws fitted with little tooth. They did not have the spectacular dental batteries of other dinosaurs of their time that would have permitted them to munch as a result of rotting logs or hard wooden.

Continue to, Brown suggests, there were some surprises. The absence of crops like horsetails in the gut contents, and the rarity of conifer product, may appear odd supplied how commonplace they were in the dinosaur’s habitat. It appears this Borealopelta was some thing of a picky eater.

“The most significant surprise for me was the charcoal,” Brown suggests, pointing to the little total of burnt wooden that advised this dinosaur was feeding on lower-lying crops in an place that experienced just lately experienced a wildfire. In fact, that affiliation may explain the existence of so several ferns. Arbour notes that ferns are some of the to start with crops to grow in fire-affected landscapes.

“It’s exciting to think that this dinosaur may have ever survived the wildfire that established the charcoal it ate,” she provides, “only to fulfill its demise in a watery tomb later on.”