bristol-university-dinosaur-erlikosaurus

Dr Stephan Lautenschlager from the University of Bristol School of Earth Sciences has brought a 90 million year old dinosaur skull back to virtual life using digital virtualisation techniques.

The dilapidated skull of an herbivorous dinosaur called Erlikosaurus Andrewsi was scanned using high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (CT scanning). The component parts were then broken down into its constituent elements, and then digitally enhanced to remove cracks, missing areas and deformations.

The dinosaur was then digitally reconstructed (as can be seen in the picture above right).

“We now have powerful tools at our disposal with which we can get a step closer to restore fossil animals to their life-like condition”

 

Dr Lautenschlager explains: “With modern computer technology, such as CT scanning and digital visualisation, we now have powerful tools at our disposal, with which we can get a step closer to restore fossil animals to their life-like condition.”

Advantages of digital models

Dr Lawrence Witmer who was also involved with the project said: “Digital models allow the study of the external and internal features of a fossil. Furthermore, they can be shared quickly amongst researchers – without any risk to the actual fossil and without having to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to see the original.”

“This is the first time we’ve been able to digitally dissect an entire skull”

 

Another member of the team, Dr Lindsay Zanno, added: “Therizinosaurs, with their pot bellies and comically enlarged claws, are arguably the most bizarre theropod dinosaurs. We know a lot about their oddball skeletons from the neck down, but this is the first time we’ve been able to digitally dissect an entire skull.”

You can read more in their paper: ‘Cranial anatomy of Erlikosaurus andrewsi (Dinosauria, Therizinosauria): new insights based on digital reconstruction’ by Lautenschlager, S., L.M. Witmer, P. Altangerel, L.E. Zanno and E.J. Rayfield in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Image credit: Dr Stephan Lautenschlager