Brachylophosaurus, The Mummy with Yummy in the Tummy By Mace Baker In 1953, the Canadian paleontologist,
Charles Sternberg discovered and then later named a brand new species of
hadrosaur. This was an exciting find because
The Mummy with Yummy in the Tummy
By Mace Baker
In 1953, the Canadian paleontologist, Charles Sternberg discovered and then later named a brand new species of hadrosaur. This was an exciting find becauseBrachylophosaurus differed significantly from other previously known hadrosaurs. Recently, Brachylophosaurus has come
back into the news. But first let us bring in a little history to properly introduce this unusual dinosaur.
Dr. Joseph Leidy was the professor of anatomy at the medical school of the University of
Pennsylvania. Early in his career, he became associated with the Academy of Natural Sciences
in Philadelphia. In 1855, he received some fossil teeth from Ferdinand Hayden, who was one of
the first scientific explorers of the territory west of the Mississippi. In March 1856, Dr. Leidy
published a description of these teeth which had been found in Montana. He considered some of
the fossils to be from a dinosaur. A close study of some of the teeth indicated that the dinosaur
was herbivorous and was probably related to Iguanodon. He gave the creature the name
Trachodon, but it is now commonly known as Anatosaurus.
Dr. Leidy’s conclusions were admittedly tentative since the evidence was so scant. Two years later, however, he obtained evidence that allowed him to be more confident of his conclusions. In 1858, Dr. Leidy was taken to a farm in New Jersey where unusual fossilized bones had been discovered by some workers in a digging operation. After much study and observation of the bones, Leidy proposed the name ofHadrosaurus, or “big lizard”, in December of 1858. He was convinced that this dinosaur also was related to Iguanodon. Trachodon had consisted of only a few teeth. The newly discovered Hadrosaurus, on the other hand, consisted of 9 teeth, part of the lower jaw, 28 vertebrae, bones of the hind feet and forelimbs, and most importantly, bones of the pelvis.
Leidy’s published description ofHadrosaurus, suggested that the dinosaur stood upright,
much in the fashion of a kangaroo. Thus, Dr. Leidy was able to establish the fact that dinosaurs
had been as much a part of animal life in North America as they had in Europe. Leidy was also
the first scientist to place a bipedal dinosaur in its correct posture.1
Since then, a variety of dinosaurs have been discovered which have been placed in the
group known as the Hadrosauridae. These include such as the now famous duck-billed dinosaurs
Parasaurolophus, Corythosaurus, Lambeosaurus, Saurolophus.
Finally, as aforemetioned, Charles Sternberg discovered and named yet another one of
these interesting creatures. In 1953 he gave it the nameBrachylophosaurus, or “short-ridge
lizard”, because of its unusual crest. Technically,Brachylophosaurus is a non-crested or flatheaded
hadrosaur. It had a deep, narrow face with a rounded snout. On top of its skull it had a broad, flat bony plate. It also had a slight hump on its snout.Brachylophosaurus did not have chewing teeth in the front of its mouth. Instead, like the other hadrosaurs, it had a beak which was used for cropping off plants. After cropping them it would move them to the back of its mouth for chewing. It’s teeth and musculature were so designed as to allow this animal to chew plants in a sideways motion similar to that of cows.
Recently,Brachylophosaurus has made it back into the news -- this time with a big
splash. A new fossil of a young (about three to four-year-old) mummifiedBrachylophosaurus
has been discovered. Mummified? Yes, indeed. The fossilized skeleton is actually covered with
soft tissues which has become mineralized. This includes skin, scales, muscle, and foot pads. In
fact, even the last meal it ate remains fossilized within its stomach region. This new find, nicknamed
Leonardo, represents one of the most completeBrachylophosaurus specimens ever found.
Prior to this discovery only three other such specimens have been classified as a mummy.
Leonardo was about 22 feet long and weighed an estimated 1.5 tons. In the past not many
dinosaurs have been found with scales, tissue, and other soft parts. In the case of Leonardo
about 90 percent of the fossilized skeleton is covered in soft tissue, including the beak.2
This dinosaur’s last meal consisted of ferns, conifers and magnolias. It is important to
remember that Leonardo was alive when it ate the plants, but was drowned and became buried in
sediments before it could digest this meal. If this dinosaur had died under normal and/or
uniformitarian circumstances (which could have included a local flash flood) and had been
slowly and gradually covered by the sands of time, no fossilized material, let alone mummified
material, would have been left for us to observe these thousands of years later. This dinosaur,
along with the many others that are found in the fossil record, is evidence of a watery catastrophe
that occurred in the past and has never been repeated since then.
1. Mace Baker,Dinosaurs, 1995
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