Fossil Preservation in the Gobi

Part of the Fighting Dinos exhibition.

Unnamed Lizard Fossil

The third section of the exhibition focused on the exquisite preservation of fossils in the Gobi, which has provided scientists with some of the world's best fossil vertebrate specimens. Scientists once thought that Gobi fossils were buried by deposits laid by sandstorms or floods. But recent studies suggest that collapsing sand dunes, triggered by torrential rains, buried these animals alive 80 million years ago. Such a catastrophic event quickly killed and buried its victims before scavengers could peck at them, leaving behind pristine skeletons frozen in action. Examples of well-preserved fossils include two oviraptorids that were found side-by-side in 1995, a yet-unnamed lizard, and a multituberculate (an ancient mammal). This section concluded with a six-minute film depicting a century of discovery of exquisitely preserved specimens from the Gobi.