South African dinosaur skeleton scan builds images from eggs to adults

Ask the kids what their favorite dinosaurs are, and the answer will definitely include Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, and perhaps Brachiosaurus. Children answering questions in South Africa may be disappointed to find that fossils of these dinosaurs are not found in South Africa.

However, South Africa has its own equally important dinosaurs. The most common and well-known of these is Massospondylus, first described by scientists in 1854. The dinosaur was about 4-5 m long from head to tail, walked on two legs, had a long neck and a small head, and ate plants. ..It lived in the Early Jurassic 200 million years ago South Africa.. It was also the ancestor of a giant creature that many children can name today: Massospondylus created a giant like Diplodocus.

Massospondylus is an important dinosaur for paleontologists. It is the most common dinosaur fossil found in Massospondylus in southern Africa, and the fossils of these animals range from embryos still in the egg to babies, adolescents and adults. Because. The oldest mature individual studied reached about 25 years of age. The range of fossils available means that researchers can study their growth.

For the last 8 years I’ve used different methods- Computed tomography (CT) scan, statistics, Study bone under a microscope -To answer questions about the development of Massos Pondillas.

The more we learn about this species of growth and development, the better we can understand the diversity and ecology of animals 200 million years ago.

CT scan

Part of my job is to understand how the Massospondillas skeleton, especially the skull, changes as it grows. This is important because if scientists do not know what a species’ skull looks like at different ages, it may not be possible to accurately determine which species was present at a particular location and time.

For example, a paleontologist may find two dinosaur skeletons, one large and one small, and assume that they belong to two different species. It will increase the diversity of the reconstructed past ecology. However, if the small skeleton is a baby version of the large skeleton, this will change the situation.

The best way to get a closer look at the skull is to scan it with a computed tomography. CT scans work with x-rays, except that they generate a stack of thousands of images instead of a single image. They can be used to digitally reconstruct fossil bones in three dimensions and examine the features inside the bones that are invisible to the naked eye.Using these scans, I Rebuild the series I explained the change in the shape of the skull of Massospondillas from babies to adults.This allows you to: Easy identification Whether the fossil is Massospondillas.

read more: The fossil hidden in South Africa’s clear view turned out to be a new dinosaur

As a researcher studying how dinosaurs grow, I am interested in the embryo, which is the absolute beginning of development. One of the most famous Massospondillas specimens is a seven-egg clutch with an embryo found in 1976 in Free State, South Africa. Using a powerful CT scan, we reconstructed the 1 cm long skulls of these little creatures and compared them to dinosaurs. Closest living relatives: Chicken, crocodile, turtle, lizard.

The skull bones of Massospondillas embryos were found to develop in the same order as the bones of today’s animals.This made me possible decide Massospondylus embryos were only 60% throughout the incubation period when buried. It also means that the skulls of this group of embryos preserve their developmental sequence for a phenomenal evolution of 250 million years. It is not yet known how far this pattern goes back in evolution, but it can appear in very early tetrapods. Tetrapods undergo many changes in evolution, so having a certain function is very important and shows that you will not spoil the good.

Posture and evolution

These scans can also be used to digitally fill the empty space that soft tissues such as the brain and inner ear once had. The inner ear consists of a canal and cochlea filled with fluid that aids balance and hearing. These shapes and sizes tell us a lot about animal behavior.This then helps to see the posture (whether it changed during growth or evolution), and whether the creature had it. Special behavior Like digging a hole, swimming, flying, or an unusual hearing.

Since the discovery of the egg in 1976, it was believed that Massospondylus babies hatched on four legs and only walked on their hind legs as they grew up. This affects the evolution of the dinosaur’s posture. However, My colleague and i found The inner ear of Massospondylus shows no signs of this change.

Another way to determine an animal’s posture is to find out how thick the arm bones (humerus) are compared to the leg bones (femur). Animals that walk on two legs have a thick femur that bears all the weight. Animals that walk on four legs, on the other hand, evenly distribute their weight and make their humerus about the same thickness as their femur.Massospondillas bone Performance Both babies and adults have thicker femurs, and they probably walked on two legs for the rest of their lives.

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Massospondylus teaches scientists a lot about the evolution and growth of early dinosaurs, but there’s still a lot to learn about it. This includes details about the structure of the egg, the length of the incubation period, or how the rest of the skeleton changed during growth.

Author: Kimberly EJ Chapel-Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History

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