Recently, news organizations around the world announced that a “spectacular mummified dinosaur” was excavated in North Dakota. “While they call it a mummy,” however, “the dinosaur is not really preserved as King Tut was. The dinosaur body has been fossilized into stone” (“Spectacular... ,” 2007). Just like most dinosaur bones we find (but not all, see Lyons, 2007), the tissues of the hadrosaur from North Dakota had been replaced by minerals. What makes this newly reported dinosaur different than most fossils is that it “came complete with skin, ligaments, tendons and possibly some internal organs” (Spectacular... ”). In commenting on the skin, paleontologist Phillip Manning said: “Oh, the skin is wonderful... . There is depth and structure to the skin. The level of detail expressed in the skin is just breathtaking” (as quoted in “Spectacular... ”).
Scientists are enamored with how much of the hadrosaur from North Dakota fossilized, because the soft parts of animals normally are the first things to decompose. Skin rarely fossilizes. In those cases where it has, you can be sure that the animal was buried rapidly in sediments where chemical conditions favored fossilization rather than decomposition.
Many people wrongly conclude that fossilization takes millions of years. Fossil finds such as this dinosaur, however, point to a much more rapid mineralization process. The fact that fossils may “look old,” does not mean that they are old—and certainly not millions of years old.
Lyons, Eric (2007), “More Soft Dinosaur Tissue,” Apologetics Press, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3518.
“Spectacular Mummified Dinosaur Found in North Dakota” (2007), Fox News, [On-line], URL: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,314606,00.html.