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Diminishing dinosaur steps saved by laser and laptop

The Fumanya site, in the Bergueda region of central Catalonia, is so delicate that experts cannot get physically close enough to the tracks to examine them.

In the years since the tracks were discovered they have been exposed to the elements, and as a result are severely weathered and eroding at a rapid rate.

To make things even more difficult, the tracks are imprinted into near-vertical rock faces.

Palaeontologists feared the tracks could be lost forever - but a permanent and detailed record has now been created using cutting-edge equipment.

Using a high-tech laser scanning system called RIEGL, researchers from The School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental have produced an interactive 3D model of a quarry face covered in thousands of tracks made by the late Cretaceous dinosaurs, including sauropods and possibly predatory theropod dinosaurs.

The portable system, which is powered by a battery, works by rotating and firing laser beams, which reflect off the quarry faces back to a receiver. The device then cross references the reflections with a built-in digital camera and GPS, and feeds the information into an attached laptop. Software is then used to create a detailed and very accurate 3D computer model of the location.

This technology has allowed researchers to closely examine and analyse the Spanish quarry tracks from many different angles and even inside out.

This information is very important for palaeontologists and dinosaur locomotion experts, because it gives an insight into the way these dinosaurs moved and the environments in which they lived.

The on-going project - run in conjunction with Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona - is being led by palaeontologist Dr Phil Manning, who received a grant of Euro 9,000 from the Consorci Ruta Minera to fund the laser scanning.

The computer modelling for the project was done by Dr David Hodgetts, a senior lecturer in Reservoir Mode
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Source:University of Manchester


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