It was lucky that the forearm was even found, as it was on the verge of crumbling into an unidentified fine powder. During the process of fossilization, the mineral pyrite – an iron sulfide compound – had found its way into the bone. Under conditions of high humidity, the pyrite oxidizes and expands, which consumes the fossil. Serendipitously, the team found it just in time.
“The fact that such a fossil was preserved is difficult to comprehend,” added co-author Jason Schein of the New Jersey State Museum. “It’s exciting to think that New Jersey is still producing scientifically important finds after over 200 years of paleontological discoveries.”
Just recently, another member of the hadrosaurid family was excavated, and found to have a facial tumor – the first time a tumor of this type had ever been found in a dinosaur. Clearly, this evolutionary lineage had a fair bit of bad luck along the way.
Dinosaurs had a tough break. Before massive volcanism, climate change, and an apocalyptic asteroid impact finished them off, the rise of opportunistic mammals were probably forcing them into decline. As increasing amounts of fossil evidence is also revealing, dinosaurs were often riddled with injuries, tumors, and diseases.
Clearly, ruling the world for 184 million years wasn’t an easy ride.
A poor Parasaurolophus, a type of hadrosaurid, being attacked by a Teratophoneus. Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain