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Fossilized T-Rex skull to undergo neutron beams, high-energy x-rays exam

From WN

Researchers announced Tuesday they have produced the highest resolution scan ever done of the inner working of a fossilized tyrannosaur skull using neutron beams and high-energy X-rays, The Associated Press reported.

By using these tools, the report said, scientists were given new clues that could be helpful to paleontologists in piecing together the evolutionary puzzle of the huge T. rex.

Using the tools, researchers with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science peered deep into the skull of a “Bisti Beast,” a T. rex relative that lived millions of years ago in what is now northwestern New Mexico, the report said.

The images revealed the dinosaur’s brain and sinus cavity, the pathways of some nerves and blood vessels and teeth that formed but never emerged, the report said.

“The CT scans help us figure out how the different species within the T. rex family related to each other and how they evolved,” said Thomas Williamson, the museum’s curator of paleontology.

T. rex and other tyrannosaurs were huge, dominant predators, but they evolved from much smaller ancestors, the AP reported.

The fossilized remnants of the Bisti Beast were found in 1996 in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin badlands near Farmington, N.M., the report said

Although scientists say the species lived about 10 million years before T. rex, the report said, scientists said it represents the foundation of the tyrannosaurs with its big-headed, bone-crushing characteristics and small forelimbs.

Williamson said the Bisti Beast was a surviving member of a lineage that retained many primitive features from even farther back than when tyrannosaurs underwent their transition to crushing bones, the AP reported.

Officials said the dinosaur’s skull is the largest object to date for which full, high-resolution neutron and X-ray CT scans have been done at Los Alamos, the report said. The technology is typically used for the lab’s work on defense and national security.

Because of the thickness of the skull, stronger X-rays were required than those typically available to penetrate the fossil, the lab said. That’s where the lab’s electron and proton accelerators came in.

“It turns out that high-energy neutrons are an interesting and unique way to image something of this size,” said Ron Nelson, who works with the lab’s physics division.

The team, which included staff from the University of New Mexico and the University of Edinburgh, is scheduled to present its work at a paleontology conference in Canada next week, the report said., Jack Durschlag

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