Dinosaur stomach found in ‘pristine condition’: last meal revealed

The remains of a dinosaur have been found in pristine condition, including its stomach, allowing scientists to know exactly what the ‘sleeping dragon’ ate over 12 million years ago.

A new study has revealed the Borealopelta Markmitchelli, more commonly referred to as a Nodosaur, was an extremely picky eater.

An analysis of the Nodosaur’s soccer-ball sized stomach, showed the creature only consumed particular parts of a certain type of fern.

The Borealopelta Markmitchelli, more commonly referred to as a Nodosaur, preferred to munch on a particular type of fern. (Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology)

“These remains are amazingly well preserved,” curator at the Canadian Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Caleb Brown told Live Science.

“You can see the cellular detail of the plants.

“When we first looked at the slides under the microscope, it was one of those moments where it’s like ‘whoa.'”

Mr Brown, who co-led the research, says its extremely rare to find the stomach remains of a herbivorous dinosaur – with only 10 reported cases world-wide.

“I’d say in two-thirds of those (remains), there’s really no good evidence that they are stomach content,” Mr Brown said.

“They’re just leaves that got buried at the same time as the animal.”

How was the dinosaur preserved?

The Nodosaur was preserved in extraordinary circumstances, which left the remains in lifelike condition.

Researchers believe the body of the giant dinosaur was swept out to sea, bloated with gas and remained afloat until it sunk to an oxygen-poor area of the ocean.

Low-oxygen levels create an environment ideal for preservation, and the dinosaur’s tough, boney armour likely deterred marine predators.

According to Mr Brown, the ferns found in the preserved stomach were likely eaten by the Nodosaur, as it was fossilized at sea – away from plants

Stones and charcoal were also found in the dinosaur’s stomach, according to professor of biology at Brandon University, David Greenwood who also co-led the study.

“Many animals today self-medicate by eating charcoal,” Prof. Greenwood said.

“We don’t know if Borealopelta (Nodosaur) was doing that, but the charcoal in its stomach says it was eating its last meal in an area that had burnt in a wildfire in the last 6-18 months.”

Mr Brown believed the grape-size stones were used to help the dinosaur break down fibrous plant material.

The stomach contents also revealed the season of death.

Based on the woody stems and maturity of the fern matter, it is predicted that this dinosaur died during the late spring to mid-summer, the researchers found.

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