‘Mona Lisa of dinosaurs’ is so well-preserved we actually know its skin colour

Royal Tyrrell Museum
Royal Tyrrell Museum

A dinosaur fossil has been described as the ‘Mona Lisa of dinosaurs’ – after researchers were able to work out its skin colour from its well-preserved remains.

The specimen is so well-preserved it looks almost like a statue – and was preserved inside its scaly skin.

It was discovered by accident by a heavy machine operator digging through oil sands in Alberta in 2011.

Researchers were able to use mass spectrometry to detect pigments in the dinosaur’s skin – which is lighter on its underside and a darker reddish-brown above.


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The researchers now hope to investigate the creature’s stomach contents.

Royal Tyrrell Museum
Royal Tyrrell Museum

The researchers have named the 18-foot nodosaur Borealopelta markmitchelli after technician Mark Mitchell who spent 7,000 hours unearthing it.

Caleb Brown from Royal Tyrrell Museum in Canada says, ‘This nodosaur is truly remarkable in that it is completely covered in preserved scaly skin, yet is also preserved in three dimensions, retaining the original shape of the animal.

‘It will go down in science history as one of the most beautiful and best preserved dinosaur specimens–the Mona Lisa of dinosaurs.

Now, the researchers have named the 5.5 metre (18-foot-long), in honour of Royal Tyrrell Museum technician Mark Mitchell, who spent over 7,000 hours carefully unearthing the fossil from its rocky grave.

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