arrow-downarrow-leftarrow-rightarrow-upchevron-upchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-upclosecomment-newemail-newgallerygridheadphones-newheart-filledheart-openmap-geolocatormap-pushpinArtboard 1Artboard 1Artboard 1minusng-borderpauseplayplusreplayscreensharefacebookgithubArtboard 1Artboard 1linkedinlinkedin_inpinterestpinterest_psnapchatsnapchat_2tumblrtwittervimeovinewhatsappspeakerstar-filledstar-openzoom-in-newzoom-out-new
0% loaded
After 110 million years, what’s a few more seconds? The tour is 0% loaded.

Virtual Tour

Resurrecting a Dragon

An ancient underwater burial yields one of the best dinosaur fossils ever discovered. Take an exclusive 3‑D tour of the find below.

Scroll to continue

Solving the Puzzle

Found in 2011 and painstakingly prepared for the last five years, this specimen is among the best armored dinosaur fossils ever found. Incredibly, it fossilized in 3‑D, preserving the intricate details of its armor and soft tissue. The fossil is nearly intact from the animal’s snout to its hips; researchers suspect it initially fossilized whole.

A Life Reconstructed

In life this imposing herbivore—called a nodosaurid ankylosaur, or nodosaur for short—stretched 18 feet long and weighed at least 3,000 pounds. Unlike its more famous cousins in the subgroup Ankylosauridae, this animal didn’t have a tail club. Chemical tests suggest that the nodosaur’s skin contained reddish pigments.

The Face of a Dinosaur

The nodosaur’s skull still bears distinctive tile-like plates and a gray patina of fossilized skin. The skull’s shape affirms that the dinosaur is a nodosaur, while the mouth and teeth suggest the animal had a weak bite and didn’t chew its food much.

Shielded From Time

Thanks to its plunge into an ancient seaway’s muddy seafloor, the nodosaur’s armor fossilized in place and retained its shape. The remarkably preserved plates—only slightly distorted from their shape in life—will help scientists reconstruct other dinosaurs’ armor, which often scattered early in decay.





Armored plate structure


Severed Spikes

The excavation that led to the nodosaur’s chance discovery resulted in these fossil blocks cleaving in half along the plane of the armor. The accidental split exposes the armor plates’ bony cores in cross section, as well as the animal’s ribs and tail‑supporting tendons.

Beyond the Visible

Since the cross section exposes the fossil’s organic-rich innards, these blocks are excellent candidates for multispectral imaging. This photographic technique uses ultraviolet and infrared light (seen here in false color) to reveal detail and contrast invisible to the naked eye.

In the Footsteps of Dinosaurs

Fossilization not only preserved one of the hind feet (seen here upside down) but also captured the 3-D spacing of the foot’s bones and soft tissue. A carbon-rich film traces scales on the fleshy footpad, which resembles those of today’s birds and big lizards.

Belly of the Beast

A kaleidoscopic cluster of pea-size masses in the nodosaur’s torso are likely fossilized bits of the animals’ final meal. Chemical tests should give insight into the nodosaur’s diet and environment—offering scientists a remarkable glimpse into the past.

Left-drag to rotate
Scroll to zoom
Right-drag to pan
Drag to rotate
Pinch to zoom
Three-finger drag to pan
Return to Tour
Explore the nodosaur fossil
Restart Tour

Brian T. Jacobs, Manuel Canales, Daisy Chung, NG Staff; Text: Michael Greshko. 3‑D Models: Captured at Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology by Corey Jaskolski, National Geographic Fellow. Art: Davide Bonadonna. Research: Patricia Healy


Hear live stories from explorers and photographers around the country.

See Locations Near You


Enjoy a variety of exhibitions that reflect the richness and diversity of our world.

Buy Tickets

Follow Us