Field paleontologists are typically seen as experts hunched over the ground, sweeping dirt off dinosaur bones in a barren, barren landscape.
However, researchers are now using techniques from medicine, chemistry, engineering and physics to expose the secrets of these prehistoric creatures in laboratories around the world.
National Geographic released its October issue with a cover story in “Reimaging Dinosaurs”, in which it discusses new technologies in the field to discover the appearance and life of animals, along with groundbreaking discoveries made with these techniques in recent years.
Researchers are using CT scanners in fossil reconstruction, particle accelerators to probe samples and lasers to see what kind of chemical samples they contain.
Paleontologists identified nearly 50 new dinosaur species each year, determined that deinonychus lay bluish eggs, learned that spinosaurus was more aquatic, and found that a tyrannosaurus rex used its large nostrils to release heat ̵
Michael Greshko, author of the cover of the October issue of National Geographic magazine, told DailyMail.com: “We are living in a golden age of paleontology as a whole, but with regard to dinosaurs in particular.”
“For a group of animals that went extinct 66 million years ago, there are more than 10,000 species living today.”
‘We live together with dinosaurs every single one – we call them birds.’
‘It could be argued that the era of the dinosaurs is never really over.’
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Researchers are now using techniques of medicine, chemistry, engineering and physics to unlock the secrets of these prehistoric creatures. Using chemistry, a team determined that deinonychus’ eggshells (artist’s impression) were a bluish color because the dinosaur had laid them in outdoor nests.
The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, located in France, houses a particle accelerator that can deeply peer into fossils to create images that CT scans can’t get.
The system moves electrons at speeds close to that of light, and when they make a complete cycle, the magnets bend the flow of particles.
This produces “some of the most intense X-rays in the world, which researchers often use to study new materials and medicines,” Greshko wrote in the article published in the October issue of National Geographic.
Dennis Voeten of the Swedish University of Uppsala used the accelerator to cut through the Archeopteryx fossils, revealing that the creature didn’t have the autonomy of beating birds, but more of pheasants.
The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, located in France, houses a particle accelerator that can deeply peer into fossils to create images that CT scans can’t get. Dennis Voeten of the Swedish University of Uppsala used the accelerator to cut through the fossils of Archeopteryx (artist’s impression), revealing that the creature did not have the autonomy of the flapping birds, but more than the pheasants.
This dinosaur lived from 125.45 million to 150.8 million years ago and is said to be the transition between non-avian feathered dinosaurs and modern birds.
“Some fossil samples cannot really be interpreted with typical CT scanners, so some researchers bring the fossils into particle accelerators,” Greshko said.
‘I went to the French Alps to learn about a particle accelerator and you don’t usually associate the two.’
‘At its core, this is the story of modern science – it’s more collaborative than ever.’
“In the case of paleontology, all of this is coming together to give us an understanding of how dinosaurs lived.”
There have also been major advances in chemistry that have helped paleontologists discover what color these animals’ feathers were, along with the outer shell of their eggs.
Yale University used a technique that shines a laser on a fossilized egg, allowing them to see how the light spreads to reveal inner chemistry. The process was used on deinonychus eggshells, which showed two chemicals – protoporphyrin and biliverdin – that have been found in modern-day bird eggs.
Yale University used a technique that shines a laser on a fossilized egg, allowing them to see how the light spreads to reveal inner chemistry.
Yale Ph.D. candidate Jasmina Wiemann used this process on deinonychus eggshells, which revealed two chemicals – protoporphyrin and biliverdin – that have been found in modern bird eggs.
National Geographic has published its October issue with a cover story in “Reimaging Dinosaurs”, discussing new technologies used in the field
This allowed Wiemann to speculate what color the egg might have been, which he believes was a bluish color.
This finding reveals that deinonychus may have used outdoor nests and the blue coloring acted as a camouflage against the sky background.
Greshko told DailyMail of an interesting discovery that would only be revealed with new technologies adopted.
“Spinosaurus was a strange predatory dinosaur with all of its original fossils destroyed during World War II,” he said.
“There have been a lot of questions about what the anatomy was and a few years ago a new skeleton was found in what is now Morocco.”
The original specimens were unearthed in Egypt in the 1910s, but were demolished during a bombing several decades later, leaving only notes, sketches and photographs behind.
“A few years ago, researchers discovered the dinosaur’s tail, which has a large paddle shape,” Greshko explained.
“The interesting thing is that they actually went to the Harvard paleontologist whose colleague tested the robotic apparatus of fish.”
“The team built a model of the tail, tested it, and was able to see how the dinosaur moved by itself through the water.”
“Technology determined that this dinosaur spent more time in the water than any other of its kind.”
CT scans have become a common technique in a paleontologist’s toolkit, allowing them to reconstruct the missing parts of a fossil without damaging what’s left.
Greshko told DailyMail of an interesting discovery that would only be revealed with new technologies adopted. “Spinosaurus was a strange predatory dinosaur with all of its original fossils destroyed during World War II,” he said. “There were a lot of questions about what the anatomy was and a few years ago a new skeleton was found in what is now Morocco.”
“The team built a model of the tail, tested it, and was able to see how the dinosaur moved through the water,” he said. “The technology determined that this dinosaur spent more time in the water than it did. any other of its kind “
Ohio University paleontologist Lawrence Witmer used CT scans to determine which dinosaurs were releasing heat from their bodies. Using CT scanners, he found that tyrannosaurus rex used its large sinuses to let out excess heat.
Ohio University paleontologist Lawrence Witmer told National Geographic, “We can reconstruct the missing bits … and run crash tests, run simulations and better understand how these animals actually worked.”
Witmer used the technology to reveal that some groups of dinosaurs have released heat from their bodies.
Using CT scanners, he found that Tyrannosaurus rex used its large sinuses to let out excess heat.
He made this discovery using the frozen carcass of a Siamese crocodile, which died of natural causes, which was sent through a scanner to reconstruct the internal anatomy of the T. rex.
This technology also provides insight into how dinosaurs moved to Earth some 66 million years ago and how they grew up.
“Dinosaurs aren’t just these monstrous movies or bone collections that tell us the past was different,” Greshko said.
‘When you look at the epic narrative about how life on earth rolls with punches on a changing earth, dinosaurs are the group to study.’
“With the changes happening now, it is incredibly important to have the baseline provided by the dinosaurs.”
For more information, visit natgeo.com/dino
HOW DINOSAURS DID EXTINCT ABOUT 66 MILLION YEARS AGO
Dinosaurs ruled and dominated the Earth some 66 million years ago, before they suddenly went extinct.
The Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction Event is the name given to this mass extinction.
For many years it was believed that the changing climate had destroyed the food chain of the huge reptiles.
In the 1980s, paleontologists discovered a layer of iridium.
This is a rare element on Earth but is found in large quantities in space.
When this was dated, it coincided precisely with when the dinosaurs disappeared from the fossil record.
A decade later, scientists discovered the huge Chicxulub crater at the tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, which dates back to the period in question.
Scientific consensus now states that these two factors are linked and both were likely caused by a massive asteroid that crashed into Earth.
With the expected size and speed of impact, the collision would have caused a massive shock wave and likely triggered seismic activity.
The fallout would have created ash plumes that likely covered the entire planet and made it impossible for the dinosaurs to survive.
Other animals and plant species had a shorter time interval between generations which allowed them to survive.
There are many other theories as to what caused the famous animals to disappear.
One early theory was that small mammals ate dinosaur eggs and another speculates that toxic angiosperms (flowering plants) killed them.