The fossilised remains of two dinosaurs known as the ‘Montana Duelling Dinosaurs’ has been dubbed the “most amazing fossil in the world” by British palaeontologist Dr Philip Manning of the University of Manchester.
It shows a herbivore – a relative of the Triceratops – and the carnivore Nanotyrannus locked in combat, with both specimens near perfectly preserved in sandstone. Not only are the bones almost complete, there are also traces of skin, an extremely rare occurrence that may enable scientists to study the dinosaurs on a cellular level.
Dr Manning has been granted access to the specimen and revealed his preliminary findings at the British Science Festival on Monday – findings that may finally lay to rest the mystery of the Nanotyrannus. Palaeontologists have been divided over whether the Nanotyrannus was a different species to the Tyrannosaurus Rex, or simply a young T. rex yet to fully develop. Dr Manning’s findings point to the former.
“This Cretaceous predator has a graceful, almost swan-like neck, but huge arms, even when compared with an adult T. rex. This suggests Nanotyrannus was indeed a distinct species from its close kin, T. rex.”
The fossil is due to be auctioned by Bonhams of New York on the 19th November this year. With a guide price in the region of £5,000,000, there are few if any museums with the ability to put the fossil on public display, much to the disappointment of Dr Manning: “This fossil would make the centrepiece of any museum and really deserves a very public home.”
“This is a keystone specimen which has helped resolve the questions surrounding the identity of a species,” he says. “It goes to show how a single specimen can help us all better understand and also reconstruct the past world of the dinosaurs with higher fidelity.”
“Hopefully the scientific significance of this stunning fossil will not be overlooked amidst media interest of the sale.” It certainly hasn’t been missed here, Dr Manning.