Dinosaurs Inside and Out

Dinosaur Skin

What dinosaur fossil found in Italy showed the remnants of soft parts?

The fossil of a small, baby carnivorous dinosaur—hardly more than a hatchling—was announced in Italy in the 1990s. The dinosaur was actually found by an amateur collector in the southern part of the country in 1981, but he thought it was just the fossil of a bird. In 1993, the fossil collector saw the movie Jurassic Park and realized his fossil looked very similar to the movie’s Velociraptor (in reality, true Velociraptors were smaller). In 1998, after the fossil was examined by paleontologists, it was determined to be the bones of a young dinosaur; it was also the first dinosaur ever discovered in Italy.

This dinosaur, called Scipionyx samniticus, is about 113 million years old. Although it is a distant cousin of both the Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor, it is considered to belong to an entirely new family. The fossil also shows something that usually does not survive millions of years of fossilization: soft parts, including a fossilized digestive tract running through the skeleton, from the throat to the base of the tail. Even the wrinkles in the dinosaur’s intestines were preserved.

Is there any evidence of sickness in dinosaurs?

Yes, there has been a great deal of evidence of dinosaur illnesses. For example, fossils of a dinosaur called Gilmoreosaurus showed, in 2003, evidence of a tumor, as well as hemangiomas, metastatic cancer, and osteoblastoma—all major illnesses in organisms. Several other hadrosaurids, including Brachylophosaurus, Edmontosaurus, and Bactrosaurus, also showed many of these diseases in various studies. Scientists are still speculating on why the dinosaurs had such problems. They could have stemmed from anything from environmental factors to a genetic propensity toward the diseases.


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