The 110-million-year-old dinosaur, a nodosaur — a relative of the ankylosaur — was covered in spiky, bony plates known as osteoderms, but it had another trick to protect itself from predators: camouflage.
A geochemical analysis of a black film covering the amazing, statue-like nodosaur specimen, a newly named genus and species dubbed Borealopelta markmitchelli, revealed that the beast was brownish-red in color.
Intriguingly, the nodosaur was darker on its back than its belly, suggesting it had countershading, a type of camouflage that many animals still use today. [ Read the Full Story on the Nodosaur Dinosaur's Discovery and Camouflage]
A side view of the stupendously spiky nodosaur fossil.
The nodosaur's fossilized head.
The herbivorous nodosaur was covered with protective, bony spikes.
Mark Mitchell chisels off the surrounding rock from the nodosaur fossil.
A bird's-eye view of the nodosaur's back.
During its lifetime 110 million years ago, the nodosaur measured 18 feet (5.5 meters) long.
Head and neck
The geochemical analysis found that the nodosaur had more pigment on its back, including on its head and neck, than on its underbelly.
The left side of the nodosaur's head. Notice the black film that covers the fossil. It contains organic remnants of the dinosaur's skin and pigment.
The nodosaur Borealopelta markmitchelli had armor, spikes and camouflage, but it likely still fell prey to larger beasts, such as the tyrannosaur Acrocanthosaurus.
Fossilized skin and osteoderms from the nodosaur's lower back. The dark skin impressions are the remains of the reddish-brown melanin, known as pheomelanin.
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Laura is the archaeology and Life's Little Mysteries editor at Live Science. She also reports on general science, including paleontology. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.