Learning More About Dinosaurs
Putting Dinosaurs Together
How will modern technology help paleontologists prepare, reproduce, and study dinosaur fossils finds in the near future?
New technologies are rapidly changing the way paleontologists prepare, reproduce, and study dinosaur fossils. For example, Computed Tomography (CT) uses X-rays to generate a three-dimensional image of an internal structure of an object; it has already been used to determine if fossilized eggs contain baby dinosaur remains. Only those rocks containing fossils, or those eggs that contain baby dinosaurs, will be prepared, eliminating much of the destructive guess-work. In the near future, lab workers will also have available a three-dimensional image of a specimen to help them in the preparation process.
Once fossil remains have been prepared, precise measurements will be made using new instruments such as electronic calipers, or two-and three-dimensional digitizers. This data will be sent directly to a computer, which will guide machinery to automatically generate reproductions of the remains in materials such as metal or plastic. This process will make highly accurate casts available to more scientists (and the public) at lower costs. Another exciting possibility is that three-dimensional data might be obtained from such non-destructive techniques as CT, allowing paleontologists to make highly accurate reproductions of dinosaur fossils without ever removing the fragile bones from the encasing rock.
The research into dinosaur behavior and physiology will be greatly enhanced by the combined use of three-dimensional imaging, modeling, and virtual reality. Scientists will be able to study individual specimens, or even complete skeletons, from any angle or view, including from the inside looking out. And with data stored on computers, paleontologists will have much quicker access to rare specimens data. Such systems as the World Wide Web now allow scientists to study a rare specimen on the computer without having to travel to the few museums and institutions that house the actual fossils. Interestingly enough, even our computer games have been affected by such computer advances, with dinosaur games showing more “realistic” versions of these creatures.