A high-resolution CT scan shows the tail end of a 67-million-year-old hadrosaur dubbed Dakota. The dinosaur's mummy was carefully transported from its resting place in North Dakota to a facility in California capable of scanning the ten-ton fossil.
The exquisitely preserved body was found with much of its tissue still intact inside an envelope of skin.
Scans of the mummy show that the dino's tail vertebrae are spaced farther apart than previous fossil finds had suggested. This means that hadrosaurs probably had much longer tails than have traditionally been depicted, the research team said.
"It's rare to find an articulated skeleton, and even more so to find one with fossilized soft tissue," said Michigan State University zoologist Peggy Ostrom, an expert in ancient proteins who was not part of the Dakota team.
"If such finds show extraordinary preservation, they tempt us to wonder about the possibility of finding [unfossilized] biomolecules that might be remnants of the ancient organism."
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Image courtesy Pratt & Whitney/Boeing ) 2007 National Geographic