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“Exceptionally Preserved” Dinosaur Remains Reveal Surprising Remnants In Its Stomach

In 2011, miners who were working at the Suncor Millennium open pit mine, which is located near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, accidentally unearthed the fossilized remains of 110-million-year-old dinosaur. The armor-plated dinosaur, which weighed approximately 2,800 pounds, has been named Borealopelta markmitchelli which is a type of nodosaur.

Nodosaurs are heavily-armored dinosaurs that roamed the Earth between the Late Jurassic period (from 163 to 145 million years ago) and the Cretaceous period (from 145 to 66 million years ago).

After the remains were found, a team of Canadian scientists from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Brandon University, and the University of Saskatchewan started studying the remains. When they analyzed the exceptionally well-preserved remains, they made an incredible discovery – they know exactly what the dinosaur ate before it died as the soccer-ball-sized remnants of its stomach also survived. And what they found was pretty mind-blowing.

Borealopelta markmitchelli

This is an incredibly exciting discovery as scientists have previously found remnants of twigs and seeds in the stomachs of herbivorous dinosaurs, but they weren’t well enough preserved to confirm exactly which types of plants they ate.

Jim Basinger, who is a scientist at the University of Saskatchewan and is one of the authors of the study (which can be read here), said in a statement, “The finding of the actual preserved stomach contents from a dinosaur is extraordinarily rare, and this stomach recovered from the mummified nodosaur by the museum team is by far the best-preserved dinosaur stomach ever found to date,” adding, “When people see this stunning fossil and are told that we know what its last meal was because its stomach was so well preserved inside the skeleton, it will almost bring the beast back to life for them, providing a glimpse of how the animal actually carried out its daily activities, where it lived, and what its preferred food was.”

They discovered that the dinosaur’s last meal consisted mostly of fern leaves (88% leaves and 7% twigs and stems). In fact, they found that it preferred eating a certain type of fern called leptosporangiates which was actually less common than other types of ferns in that area.

But probably the most astonishing thing that they found was that there was a significant amount of charcoal in its stomach. This suggests that the dinosaur lived in an environment that had quite a few wildfires. David Greenwood, who is from Brandon University and is another author of the study, said in a statement, “There is considerable charcoal in the stomach from burnt plant fragments, indicating that the animal was browsing in a recently burned area and was taking advantage of a recent fire and the flush of ferns that frequently emerges on a burned landscape.”

The Borealopelta markmitchelli feasted mostly on ferns.

The contents in its stomach reveal another interesting fact – the time of year in which it passed away. In addition to it dying shortly after eating its last meal, it happened in the late part of spring to the middle of summer.

In a statement, Royal Tyrrell Museum palaeontologist and another author of the study Caleb Brown, said, “Taken together, these findings enable us to make inferences about the ecology of the animal, including how selective it was in choosing which plants to eat and how it may have exploited forest fire regrowth. It will also assist in understanding of dinosaur digestion and physiology.”

As for how it was so well preserved, one hypothesis is that it drowned in a flood and its body ended up being brought inland by the waters. At that point, it became completely covered in mud on the seafloor which preserved it for millions of years.

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Jocelyne LeBlanc works full time as a writer and is also an author with two books currently published. She has written articles for several online websites, and had an article published in a Canadian magazine on the most haunted locations in Atlantic Canada. She has a fascination with the paranormal and ghost stories, especially those that included haunted houses. In her spare time, she loves reading, watching movies, making crafts, and watching hockey.