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Stunningly intact dinosaur fossil found in Germany

Posted on behalf of Marian Turner.

The almost perfectly complete fossil of a young theropod dinosaur – including some preserved hair and skin* (see update below) – was unveiled yesterday by scientists from the Bavarian paleontological and geological collections (BSPG) in Munich, Germany. BSPG conservator Oliver Rauhut described it as the best preserved dinosaur skeleton to have ever been found in Europe.

german dinosaur.jpg

Darren Naish, palaeontologist at the University of Southampton, says the fossil is “incredible”. Rauhut says that fossils of theropod dinosaurs, which include the genus Tyrannosaurus, are rare and usually fragmented. “The best-preserved Tyrannosaurus we have are about 80 percent preserved, and that is already terrific,” he says. The new fossil is around 98% intact.

The dinosaur died around 135 million years ago at a site near the present town of Kelheim in the southern German state of Bavaria. Rauhut and his team of palaeontologists think it was no more than a year old.

Naish hopes that the bone preservation in the fossil is as outstanding as it looks in the publically-released photo, because this might help scientists piece together the phylogeny of theropod species. No data is available on the fossil yet, so Naish can only speculate, but he says the dinosaur seems to have proportionally shorter legs, and a longer tail, than have been seen in other similar theropods. Particularly tantalising is the question of whether these differences are attributable to the dinosaur being a juvenile, or if it might be an example of a new species.

“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.” He says this new specimen might provide insights into this evolutionary possibility.

Anyone in the area can check out the fossil for themselves from 27 October, when it will be on display for four days at the Munich Show before moving to a museum.

*UPDATE: As many of you noted in the comments, dinosaurs are not known to have had hair. The word was widely used by German-language media, but it is likely that the dinosaur did not have hair, but protofeathers, fuzzy, filament-like precursor to feathers, seen in other theropods.

Image credit: Helmut Tischlinger / Photoshot


  1. Report this comment

    Vanessa said:

    preserved “hair” and skin? that’s a typo, right? the spiegel online article mentioned preserved skin, but not hair, which i don’t think theropods have.

  2. Report this comment

    Joel Jacobsen said:

    Hair? Really? More details, please.

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    Roger Pitts said:

    Bloody amazing!! Its got a large head,long tail, I would love someone to put meat and skin on that skeleton and 3d it.

  4. Report this comment

    Taupo said:

    I think you meant protofeathers instead of hairs… If not, this would be a truly unbelievable finding…

  5. Report this comment

    Joel said:

    I think they might have meant feathery scales rather than hair…just a guess.

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    Swift Loris said:

    Be nice to know how big it is—I can’t tell from the photo. And why is it greenish?

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    John Joseph-Peter Sabuco said:

    The hypothesis that various stages of juvenility also represent occupation of various niches is fascinating as a potential cause for lower diversity in dinosaurs. However, this niche variation during life maturation has been known in plants and fungi for many years. Why hasn’t it suppressed speciation and diversity among these taxa?

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    Boron said:

    As already stated by Taupo and Vanessa, there is no real hair preserved but there are remains of primitive hair-like feathers (also called filaments).

    The bone looks greenish because the photo was taken under UV light in order to increase the contrast between skeleton and surrounding limestone (the bone is flurescent, the rock is not). Under normal light the skeleton would be much less recognizable.

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    william burke said:

    ok. no hair. i’m not so excited anymore

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