Researchers say this specimen is about as close to perfect as fossils come. Unveiled yesterday by scientists from the Bavarian paleontological and ecological collections (BSPF) in Munich, Germany, the unnamed dinosaur is believed to be 98% complete, and even includes bits of preserved skin.
The specimen is thought to belong to a suborder of dinosaurs known as theropods, which includes such iconic dinosaurs as T. Rex. Theropod specimens are among the rarest on earth — so to find one in such excellent condition has experts understandably excited.
"The best-preserved Tyrannosaurus we have are about 80 percent preserved," explained BSPG conservator Oliver Rauhut, comparing the two theropods. "And that is already terrific."
Measurements of the fossil's skull, body proportions and bone surface have led Rauhut and his team of paleontologists to conclude that the dinosaur was no more than a year old when it died, which only adds to the excitement surrounding the discovery (the remains of young dinosaurs are also a rare find).
According to Darren Naish, a paleontologist at the University of Southampton, the as-yet-unnamed dinosaur appears to have a longer tail and proportionally shorter legs than other, similar theropods, but whether this is simply due to the dinosaur's age or its being an entirely new species remains to be seen.
Naish says that if the specimen's bones are as well preserved as they appear to be in the photos you see here, it could provide valuable insight into the evolutionary history of theropod species, and shed light on questions pertaining to prehistoric species diversity.
"There have been recent suggestions that some juvenile dinosaurs were so anatomically different to adults that they occupied different ecological niches," says Naish. "Dinosaur species diversity seems to have been lower than might be expected, and one reason for this could be that individuals of a single species occupied multiple different niches over their lifetimes."
Via Nature News Blog