Obviously I have covered feathers on dinosaurs here several times, so it’s about time we looked at non-feather integuments, or to be less jargon-y, skin. This picture is of a rather nicely preserved piece of dinosaur skin on display at the Geological Museum of China. Sadly they don’t list which taxon or fossil site it is from and I keep forgetting to ask them. However, based on its size (the small scales are only a couple of millimeters across), similarity of form to others in the clade and frequency of the specimens in the formation from which most of the museum’s specimens come, I suspect it’s a ceratopsian of some kind, quite probably Psittacosaurus.
I’m no expert on skin so I could be wrong, but the important point here is that a) it looks nice, b) it therefore shows off just how good evidence we have for what some dinosaur skin looked like, c) how good the fossil preservation is and d) what the actual pattern of the skin was like. Here at least you can draw a great deal of information on skin and scale pattern and structure. What you can’t do however is say exactly what animal it came from, or from what part of the body.
This piece is in isolation – it’s just a piece of skin on a rock. As such despite it resembling ceratopsians (to my eye at least, or even if we had a pretty much exact match to another known taxon) we really can’t say for sure what it came from. Nor do we know where on the body it would have gone – we can probably rule out the soles of the feet and the head but after that it could be leg, tail, back, even belly. This is important as of course there are significant variations in skin patterns not just in modern reptiles but birds too and also in dinosaurs. As such, it’s good, but hardly great, though still worth enjoying.