For five days and five nights, a small dinosaur from South Africa was subject to very bright X-rays, which revealed its entire skeleton despite the argillaceous rock matrix that surrounds largely. “It’s fantastic!” Exclaims the South African paleontologist Jonah Choinière, discovering images of the skull of this Heterodontosaurus on the screens of one of the laboratories of theEuropean synchrotron in Grenoble .
‘Amazing’ dinosaur with ‘spare’ teeth grinding goes under ESRF X-rayt.co/bm7FSg12og @MailOnline cc @JonahChoiniere @ESI_FossilLab
– European Synchrotron (@esrfsynchrotron)
July 28, 2016
A dinosaur ‘unearthed virtually “
This vast international system produces X 100 billion times more brilliant rays as those used in the hospital. In the case of this young dinosaur, whose full skeleton has one, it allows the “dig up virtually,” said the ESRF (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility).
The bone contours are revealed in the image despite the fact that the composition of fossilized bone is “almost the same” as sediment, said Vincent Fernandez, a palaeontologist at the ESRF. A basic scanner, he would drop there.
Travel in black briefcases
The Heterodontosaurus, whose name means “lizard with various teeth,” lived some 200 million years. This herbivore, which measured about 1 m from the head to the tail, several kinds of teeth of canines solid which one wonders what they served him. A South African paleontologist, Billy de Klerk, found Heterodontosaurus tucki there several years in the bed of a river near the Lesotho .
To extract the fossil, it was cut into several pieces. Six made the trip to France in three black briefcases.
Many questions remain
“We came to France with a lot of questions,” says Jonah Choinière. “We want to better understand how this dinosaur was breathing, how he ate, how he moved.”
“The main scientific question is what were his small bony plates it between the ribs,” said Vincent Fernandez. Present in birds, such ribs helps breathing. “But Heterodontosaurus has nothing to do with the branch that gave the birds,” adds you it. “It’s so strange.”
Another question: what role played by small hills that covered his abdomen? “In five days, we performed 321 scans and accumulated 4,000 gigabytes of data,” calculates Vincent Fernandez.
Two years of work ahead
It will take time for qu’Heterodontosaurus tucki its secrets. Jonah Choinière think it will need about two years before they can get a scientific paper on the fossil. The X-ray imaging is increasingly used to study fossils. The ESRF, which is leader in this field, has already studied the skull of Toumai primate discovered in Chad in 2001, and more recently the skull of the hominid Sediba, found in 2008 in South Africa. Inaugurated in 1994, the ESRF has 21 partner countries including South Africa.