We might imagine an encased ammonite shell or an impression left by the foot of a large dinosaur when we think of a fossil. In truth, fossils can be so much more than that. Fossils are simply the remains of an organism or its behavior that have been geologically altered yet are predominately intact. That said, fossils can come in an array of shapes, sizes, and geological alterations—not just a chunk of bone or a footprint. Let’s take a look at some of the most fascinating fossils from the Mesozoic Era to show you just how incredible nature’s relics can be.
The Sleeping Nodosaur
As sediment piles on top of a deceased organism, the weight typically squishes it flat, which is why many fossilized remains appear to be lying on their sides. In 2011, at the Suncor Millennium Mine in Alberta, Canada, researchers discovered the three-dimensional fossilized remains of a nodosaur that was so well preserved it almost looked like it was sleeping. Its skin and scales were easy to identify, giving scientists an amazing window into what this creature actually looked like.
How did this happen you might ask? The nodosaur is a close relative of the iconic ankylosaur, both having incredibly tough armor. Scientists believe that once the animal died, it was swept out into the ocean, and its armor protected it from being eaten by scavengers.
Paleontologists will study just about anything they can get their hands on, including dinosaur feces, also known as coprolites. You may be wondering why anyone would want to study dinosaur dung all day, but there is an answer! There are two main types of fossils: body fossils and trace fossils.
As you may be able to guess, body fossils are a remnant of an organism’s form. Trace fossils, like a footprint or nest, tell us about an animal’s behavior. Coprolites are a kind of trace fossil that can tell us so much about how an animal lived and what their diet consisted of. The largest coprolite ever found is from a T. Rex and comes in at about two feet long, weighing in at seven pounds.
We may not think of fossils being the most aesthetically pleasing objects, but this next fossil proves that there will always be an exception to the rule! A little over 30 years ago, an opal miner named Bob Foster was digging in an Australian mining site known as the “Sheepyard.” What he found were a lot of strange bones that he didn’t want anything to do with, so instead, he sent them to museum curator Alex Ritchie.
In 1984, they finished hauling out the most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in the area, and they were almost all opalized! Given the right conditions, pressure, and time, silica—dissolved in water with a little bit of sandstone—turns into opal! An Australian team led by Phil Bell restudied these fossils. As it turns out, the remains were of a completely undiscovered species, which Bell called Fostoria dhimbangunmal, part of the iguanodontian clade.
These are just a few of the most incredibly fascinating fossils from the Mesozoic era, and there are surely more to be found for years to come. Check out Creative Beasts Studio’s collection, Beasts of the Mesozoic, if you want a piece of the Mesozoic in your home. With our wide variety of highly detailed dinosaur figurines, we guarantee you’ll find one of your dino favorites that we can ship right to your door!