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'Dinobird' Fossil Added A New Leaf To Palaeontology

By Cara

A team of palaeontologists, geochemists and physicists have found a 150 million year old "dinobird" fossil that has been hiding remnants of the animal's original chemistry.

Using Light Source Technology, the scientists have traced a hair-thin X-ray beam across the fossil. The results revealed evidences of chemicals that was present in the body of the 'dinobird' fossil.

These chemical elements were actually a part of the living animal and not merely chemicals that stuck to it from surrounding rocks.

"People have never used a technique this sensitive on Archaeopteryx before.

"Because the SSRL beam is so bright, we were able to see the tiniest chemical traces that nobody thought were there," said SLAC Physicist, Uwe Bergmann who led the X-ray scanning experiment.

The maps created from the chemical elements of the creature show that portions of the feathers are not merely impressions of long-decomposed organic material but actual fossilized feathers that contained Phosphorous and Sulphur, elements that comprise modern bird feathers.

Traces of Copper and Zinc were also found. This is also common to what is found in the present day birds. These elements helped the Archaeopteryx to stay healthy.

As a result, the research has the potential to change the way a palaeontologists viewed a fossil. "We're able to read so much more into these organisms now using this technology - we're literally touching ghosts," said Wogeliusa.

Chemistry is the real key in the future of palaeontology. It's indeed a paradigm shift.

Story first published: Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 12:51 [IST]
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