Paleontologists are now able to use x-rays to "complete" a dinosaur skeleton to learn more about the anatomy of creatures which once dominated the planet before they were killed in a mass extinction event 65 million years ago.
The first skeleton to be examined using the new method belonged to a small plant-eating dinosaur which experts believe lived 200 million years ago at the beginning of the Jurassic Period - the second phase of the Mesozoic Era.
Dinosaur Skeleton Identified Using Revolutionary Technology
BBC News reports the species was common at the time it roamed the earth, but scientists have been unable to learn much about it due to a limited fossil record.
"There's still a lot we don't know about early plant-eating dinosaurs," said Professor Jonah Choiniere from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. "We need new specimens like this one and new technology like the synchrotron to fill in those gaps."
The dinosaur skeleton examined at the ESRF facility in France was deemed to small and fragile to be studied by conventional means, but paleontologists are able to "complete" missing information with the help of X-rays.
Professor Choiniere and Dr. Vincent Fernandez scanned the fossilized specimen to develop a better understanding about how the creature ate, moved, and breathed. The X-ray technology allowed them to build a three-dimensional reconstruction of the animal's brain, offering more clues about how it lived and what tools it used to survive in a chaotic period of time.
The species has been identified as Heterodontosaurus tucki. According to the scientists, the small dinosaur used its teeth to grind down the plants it ate. Experts are confident the technology can be used to acquire similar information about other extinct animals.
Heterodontosaurus was originally discovered during a British-South African expedition in 1961. The first specimen consisted of a crushed but mostly complete skull, which is now displayed at the Iziko South African Museum.