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Dakota the Dinomummy dominates the North Dakota Heritage Center

Posted 5/02/24 (Thu)

Story by Paige Gilmar

BISMARCK, ND (KXNET) — The North Dakota Heritage Center has been graced with prehistoric royalty — it’s close to roaring to life in the paleontology lab and it’s dino-mite!

Dakota the Dinomummy is one of only a dozen fossilized dinosaurs to have skin that’s been fully mummified.

Dakota was first discovered by a high school student in 1999 in Marmarth, North Dakota, and from 2004 to 2005, Dakota was excavated. Dakota found their home at the Heritage Center in 2008 under the care of the North Dakota Geological Survey Paleontology Program.

Dakota is a dinosaur of the duck-billed variety and is a member of the Edmontosaurus species from the tail-end of the dinosaur era (about 66 or 67 million years ago). They are a predominantly bipedal species, and they lived in giant herds like the modern-day bison.

Eating mainly plants, Edmontosaurs usually grow to be about 30-40 feet long. Dakota was just a teenager from the Hell Creek Formation when they died though, only measuring about 20 feet.

Dakota’s body folded over itself after going into the ground, marinating in the perfect biochemical stew to remain preserved.

The extensive preservation of their bones and skin makes Dakota an especially rare specimen.

“Dakota is our crown jewel of the state fossil collection,” said senior paleontologist Clint Boyd. “We really can’t replace Dakota. I’m really glad it came here and that this is its permanent home.”

Dakota’s skin is about 1-2 millimeters thick and requires slow, painstaking care to prepare for display.

While Dakota has been put on exhibit at the Heritage Center before, you’ve never seen Dakota like this.

Thanks to more than 20,000 hours of fossil preparation, Dakota’s anatomy — like its arm, leg, and tail — has been taken apart for patrons to better understand and imagine what Dakota was like, especially for children.

“Their eyes light up,” says fossil preparer Mindy Householder, “and it’s really cool to see, you know, their reactions to that.”

Dakota the Dinomummy will be on display all throughout the month of May, so be sure to check out the legend, Dakota, themself!