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This is from Science Daily service relating to the parasaurolophus thread.
Date: Fri, 8 Mar 1996 14:42:42 EST
Sandia Labs' Computer Expertise
Helping To Demystify Dinosaur
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (3/7/96) -- Computer scientists at Sandia National
Laboratories, working with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History
and The State Museum of Pennsylvania, are applying computer models
developed for the Department of Energy to help unravel some of the
mystery surrounding dinosaurs, including whether a certain species may
have been warm-blooded.
Sandia scientists are using their expertise in 3-D computer imaging to
create a detailed model of the skull of a rare, crested duck-billed
dinosaur, known as Parasaurolophus. Besides helping to solve some of
the many unanswered questions surrounding dinosaurs, the project gives
Sandia scientists an opportunity to expand and hone computing skills
that are vital to their research mission for the DOE.
The computerized version of the dinosaur skull will also provide an
exciting spin-off: In the same manner scientists can tell the
character of the sound a trombone makes simply by studying its shape,
the Sandia team plans to use the 3-D skull model to simulate a variety
of sounds consistent with the observed shape of the Parasaurolophus'
approximately 4.5-foot trombone-like crest that rose from the back of
its skull. The crest contained a labyrinth of chambers connected to
the dinosaur's breathing passages. Most paleontologists believe the
crest served as a resonating chamber and allowed the dinosaur to make
loud, low-frequency sounds. The crests probably also acted as a means
for visual identification by other hadrosaurs, or duck-billed
Parasaurolophus, one of the dinosaurs that appeared briefly in the
film Jurassic Park, lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, about 75
million years ago. Although hadrosaurs were the most abundant of the
large plant-eating dinosaurs of that period, a few kinds of hadrosaur
dinosaurs, including Parasaurolophus, are very rare and remain
relatively poorly understood. Remains of two or three species (the
exact number is still disputed) of Parasaurolophus have been
discovered, and little is known about the amount of variation present
within each species.
Dr. Thomas Williamson, curator of paleontology at the New Mexico
Museum of Natural History, said the computer imaging also may help
answer whether Parasaurolophus was warm-blooded. There has been
long-standing disagreement over the possibility of warm-blooded
dinosaurs. Williamson said he will be looking for turbinate bones in
the air passages of the dinosaur. Almost all warm-blooded animals have
turbinate bones, and no existing cold-blooded animal has them.
The project began by using a CT (computed tomography) scanner at St.
Joseph Medical Center in Albuquerque to produce about 500 thin-sliced
x-ray images of the dinosaur skull. The slices of every part of the
skull are then assembled into a 3-D computer model that can be viewed
inside and out, and from any possible angle. The images are used to
determine the density of the bone and to sort through what is not
bone, which in this case is primarily sandstone. Williamson works
closely with the Sandia team to make those determinations.
The Sandia team, which consists of computer scientists George
Davidson, Carl Diegert, and Constantine Pavlakos, are using some of
the world's most powerful computers to create the computer models.
The Parasaurolophus skull was discovered in August 1995 in the
De-na-zin Wilderness area of the San Juan Basin of northwestern New
Mexico. Williamson was leading a party that was conducting research on
Late Cretaceous animals under permit from the Bureau of Land
Management. The skull was first noticed by Dr. Robert Sullivan, senior
curator of paleontology and geology at The State Museum of
Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. The find included the 4.5-foot long nasal
crest and the lower left jaw with all 43 rows of teeth. The bone is
jet-black and glossy. However, some of the elements are fractured and
the crest is somewhat distorted by crushing.
Sandia National Laboratories is operated by a subsidiary of Lockheed
Martin Corporation for the Department of Energy. With main facilities
in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California, Sandia has
broad-based research and development programs contributing to national
defense, energy and environmental technologies, and economic
Source: Sandia National Laboratories