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Archive for September, 2010

Casey Holliday measuring ostrich bones (2001).

A project that got its start way back in WitmerLab’s Triassic Period finally came to fruition, thanks to the professionalism and perseverance of lead author Casey Holliday. Today, in the freely available, open-access online journal PLoS ONE, we published an article (Holliday et al. 2010) on the caps of cartilage (known as epiphyses) that form the articulations between the long bones of dinosaurs and their modern-day archosaurian relatives (birds and crocs). For a long time, paleontologists had looked at the ends of dinosaur bones like the femur or humerus and suspected that something might be missing. The bones’ ends looked poorly formed, almost too simple, or were covered with a rough pattern of bumps and grooves. The logical conclusion was that many of these bones must have been covered with pretty significant amounts of cartilage.
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The National Geographic Channel ran a documentary called “Bizarre Dinosaurs” way back in October 2009, but just yesterday I got a copy of the DVD, which has inspired this post. I appeared on the show in different contexts, but primarily talking about Nigersaurus, indeed a dinosaur to which the term “bizarre” applies.

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A "scan burrito": a crocodile head wrapped in foam sheeting wrapped in alcohol-soaked gauze and then all wrapped in a plastic bag.

One goal of this blog is to share some of our tips and tricks for CT scanning, 3D visualization, and presentation. The inspiration for this post came as I was scooting over to the OU MicroCT Scanning facility on my Vespa with a scan burrito tucked in my pocket. What, you may ask, is a “scan burrito?” A scan burrito is what we call the assembled packet of dead animal that we shove into our microCT scanner. The dead animal du jour was the fleshed-out head of a hatchling false gharial, Tomistoma schlegelii, (USNM 84247), which is an unusual and enigmatic species of crocodilian that today clings tenuously to life in rivers of Malaysia and Sumatra.

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In the USA, “Congress” is almost a dirty word. But for many scientists around the world, one congress is a treasure. The International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology is a special event, allowing scientists to get together for a week or so and revel in the structure, function, and evolution of backboned animals. For many of us, ICVM is our favorite conference. It’s typically pretty intimate (300-500 attendees). It’s held every 3-4 years and has been in diverse locales: Giessen (1983), Vienna (1986), Antwerp (1989), Chicago (1994), Bristol (1997), Jena (2001), Boca Raton (2004), Paris (2007), and, most recently, 26-31 July 2010, in Punta del Este, Uruguay. We’re all looking forward to Barcelona in 2013!

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