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 Brachylophosaurus 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 of Hadrosaurus, 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 of Hadrosaurus, 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 name Brachylophosaurus, 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) mummified Brachylophosaurus

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 complete Brachylophosaurus 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

2. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/10/1010_021010_dinomummy.html

 

 

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