PhysOrg goes on to report: “The researchers report that the dinosaur met its fate in a body of water of some sort and was quickly covered in sediment, which acted as a very good preservation material.” The researchers report that the quarry where it was found “also produced the remains of numerous other taxa, including turtles, crocodilyforms, theropods, hadrosaurids, invertebrates and plants”.
Meanwhile, another very well preserved dinosaur of similar size, a nodosaur also with bony plates and spikes and preserved soft tissues, has been found in Alberta, Canada, and is described in National Geographic.
Links: National Geographic, PhysOrg, Science
ED.COM. National Geographic has a more detailed and dramatic story about how dinosaurs are preserved: “One unlucky day this landlubbing animal ended up dead in a river, possibly swept in by a flood. The belly-up carcass wended its way downriver - kept afloat by gases that bacteria belched into its body cavity - and eventually washed out into the seaway, scientists surmise. Winds blew the carcass eastward, and after a week or so afloat, the bloated carcass burst. The body sank back-first onto the ocean floor, kicking up soupy mud that engulfed it. Minerals infiltrated the skin and armour and cradled its back, ensuring that the dead nodosaur would keep its true-to-life form as eons worth of rock piled atop it”. National Geographic certainly know how to tell a good story, but they need to add that for a creature to be so well preserved, it had to be buried very rapidly and deeply, before any scavengers or decay processes destroyed it. For a creature the size of a rhinoceros that meant a lot of water dumping a lot of sediment all at once. Furthermore, the reason dinosaurs become encased in rock had nothing to do with eons of time. The ankylosaur was found in what the scientists described as a cemented sandstone concretion. Anyone who has ever made concrete will know that it turns to stone because of the right chemical processes, not because it is left lying around for eons.
PhysOrg is half right in its description of the ankylosaur. It was a vegetarian, but the bony plates and knobs on its tail were not “designed for striking enemies”. To know what it was designed to do you need to consult the Designer who informs us that He created a very good world where all animals were vegetarian and there was no death and struggle. This means this creature was not designed to destroy the shins of enemies, because there weren’t any enemies. So the bony plates, with all their excrescences and knobs, would have been for thermoregulation, species identification and mating signals. Sadly this very good world did not last. Because of human sin and God’s judgement it rapidly degenerated into the world described in the days of Noah - filled with violence, and poor old vegetarian Zuul probably did get around to destroying a few shins of any who attacked him looking for a free lunch. This violent world grieved God so much He sent the Flood to destroy it, and that is a better explanation of how the ankylosaur ended up drowned, washed to sea then buried under a mass of sediment, along with all the other animals and plants listed by the research team.
Photo of Ankylosaur skull showing quality of preservation from: Victoria M. Arbour, David C. Evans, A new ankylosaurine dinosaur from the Judith River Formation of Montana, USA, based on an exceptional skeleton with soft tissue preservation, Royal Society Open Science, doi: 10.1098/rsos.161086, Published 10 May 2017, under Creative Commons Licence CC BY 4.0.