© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dakota the Dinosaur


North Dakota is no stranger to dinosaurs. The state has a fascination with them. Fourteen dinosaurs are on display at the Dickinson Dinosaur Museum, including a 37 foot tyrannosaurus rex. In June, 2014, “Discover the Dinosaurs” presented an exhibit of animated dinosaurs at the Bismarck Civic Center. It proved to be very popular. The Hell Creek Formation in North Dakota is well known for dinosaur discoveries. Fossils can be seen in museums all across the state. But the most spectacular North Dakota dinosaur was only recently put on display.

Paleontology student Tyler Lyson came across the remains of a dinosaur on his family’s property in 1999. There was no indication the remains were anything special, but for several years, Lyson continued to investigate the site. He ended up discovering not only the bones of a dinosaur, but also fossilized soft tissue. This is extremely rare.

Noted British paleontologist Phillip Manning teamed up with Lyson. They excavated the site in 2006 and revealed an extraordinary 67-million-year-old duckbill dinosaur mummy. The presence of the soft tissue allowed scientists to estimate the size and speed of the dinosaur. They concluded that it was 35 feet long, weighed 3 ½ tons, and could run 28 miles per hour. A CAT scan showed that it had much more powerful hind legs than scientists previously believed.

On this date in 2007, Manning and Tyson formally unveiled Dakota the Dinosaur. It is the best preserved dinosaur found in a century. Although it has been described as a mummy because of the soft tissue, the entire dinosaur had long since been turned to stone. The remains were found near what had been a river, but scientists do not know how Dakota died.

Scientists have agreed that Dakota the Dinosaur has altered their understanding. Only a few pieces of dinosaur skin have been found, and most of them are very small. Scientists believe the scales on Dakota are evidence of camouflage coloring. The dinosaur also had a pad on its palms and hooves on its feet. Dakota is on display at the State Historical Society of North Dakota and serves as a cornerstone of the museum’s expansion.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


The Bismarck Tribune. 5 June, 2014. “Dinosaur exhibit, program coming.” "http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/bismarck/dinosaur-exhibit-program-coming/article_0c803ec4-ecbc-11e3-abfe-001a4bcf887a.html" http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/bismarck/dinosaur-exhibit-program-coming/article_0c803ec4-ecbc-11e3-abfe-001a4bcf887a.html Accessed 21 November, 2014.

Bloomberg Business Week. "http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2014-10-22/north-dakota-reaches-deal-to-keep-dinosaur-mummy" http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2014-10-22/north-dakota-reaches-deal-to-keep-dinosaur-mummy Accessed 8 November, 2014.

National Geographic News. "http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/12/photogalleries/dinosaur-pictures/index.html" http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/12/photogalleries/dinosaur-pictures/index.html Accessed 8 November, 2014.

North Dakota Geologic Survey. "https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndfossil/exhibits/Exhibits.asp" https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndfossil/exhibits/Exhibits.asp Accessed November 8, 2011.

The Washington Post. “Scientists Get Rare Look at Dinosaur Soft Tissue.” 12/3/2007. "http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2007/12/03/ST2007120300591.html" http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2007/12/03/ST2007120300591.html Accessed 8 November, 2014.