The tiny, intact skeleton of a baby rhinoceroslike dinosaur has been unearthed in Canada.
The toddler was just 3 years old and 5 feet (1.5 meters) long when it wandered into a river near Alberta, Canada, and drowned about 70 million years ago. The beast was so well-preserved that some of its skin left impressions in the nearby rock.
The fossil is the smallest intact skeleton ever found from a group of horned, plant-eating dinosaurs known as ceratopsids, a group that includes the iconic Triceratops.
Finding intact baby dinosaurs is incredibly rare.
“The big ones just preserve better: They don’t get eaten, they don’t get destroyed by animals,” said study co-author Philip Currie, a paleobiologist at the University of Alberta. “You always hope you’re going to find something small and that it will turn out to be a dinosaur.”
Paleontologists had unearthed a few individual bones from smaller ceratopsids in the past. But without intact juvenile skeletons, such bones aren’t very useful, as scientists don’t really know how each bone changes during each stage of the animals’ lives, Currie said.
The team was bone-hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta when Currie came upon what looked like a turtle shell sticking out from a hillside. Upon closer inspection, the fossil turned out to be a frill, the bony decorative headgear that surrounds the back of the head in ceratopsids.
When the team excavated, they found the fossilized skeleton of a tiny dinosaur they identified as a Chasmosaurus belli, a species commonly found in the area.