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news article



This is from Science Daily service relating to the parasaurolophus thread.

Date: Fri, 8 Mar 1996 14:42:42 EST
Subject: dinopost
   
   Sandia Labs' Computer Expertise
   Helping To Demystify Dinosaur
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   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
   dinosaurs.
   
   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
   competitiveness.
   
   Source: Sandia National Laboratories
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