Scientists at The University of Manchester have used synchrotron-based imaging techniques to identify previously unseen anatomy preserved in fossils.
Their work on a 50 million year old lizard skin identified the presence of teeth (invisible to visible light), demonstrating for the first time that this fossil animal was more than just a skin moult. This was only possible using some of the brightest light in the universe, x-rays generated by a synchrotron.
Dr Phil Manning, Dr Nick Edwards, Dr Roy Wogelius and colleagues from the Palaeontology Research group used Synchrotron Rapid Screening X-ray Fluorescence at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource in California to map the chemical make up of a rare fossil lizard skin. This cutting edge technology uses powerful x-rays that enabled the team to map the presence of phosphorus from teeth in this ancient reptile.
The relative position of the phosphorous in the skin fossil helped the scientists identify the type of lizard. They believe that the more elongated snout in conjunction with the general jaw shape bears a strong resemblance to a shinisaurid lizard (Bahndwivici ammoskius). The presence of phosphorous also demonstrates for the first time that the fossil skin is more than just a moult, as no lizards can shed their teeth along with their skin!
Talking about the images Dr Manning said: "Finding the presence of teeth changes almost everything we thought we knew about this fossil. We can identify the type of lizard for the first time, based upon the geometry of the teeth. Our findings also raise some fascinating questions about what happened to the animal after its death. What wiped out its bones but preserved the skin and the ghost of its teeth?"
The results of the analysis of the fossil using the synchrotron have been published in the journal Applied Physics A. It adds to the growing weight of evidence that powerful synchrotrons offer advance
|Contact: Morwenna Grills|
University of Manchester