Neutron beams, x-rays reveal more about T. rex relative

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Researchers at a top U.S. laboratory announced Tuesday that they have produced the highest resolution scan ever done of the inner workings of a fossilized tyrannosaur skull using neutron beams and high-energy X-rays, resulting in new clues that could help paleontologists piece together the evolutionary puzzle of the monstrous T. rex.

Officials with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science presented some of their findings after peering deeper in into the skull of a "Bisti Beast," a T. rex relative that lived millions of years ago in what is now northwestern New Mexico.

The images detail the dinosaur's brain and sinus cavity, the pathways of some nerves and blood vessels and teeth that formed but never emerged.

"The CT scans help us figure out how the different species within the T. rex family related to each other and how they evolved," said Thomas Williamson, the museum's curator of paleontology.

T. rex and other tyrannosaurs were huge, dominant predators, but they evolved from much smaller ancestors.

The fossilized remnants of the Bisti Beast, or Bistahieversor sealeyi, were found in 1996 in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin badlands near Farmington, New Mexico.

The species lived about 10 million years before T. rex, and scientists have said it represents the foundation of the tyrannosaurs with its big-headed, bone-crushing characteristics and small forelimbs.

Williamson said the Bisti Beast was a surviving member of a lineage that retained many primitive features from even farther back than when tyrannosaurs underwent their transition to crushing bones.

Officials said the dinosaur's skull is the largest object to date for which full, high-resolution neutron and X-ray CT scans have been done at Los Alamos. The technology is typically used for the lab's work on defense and national security.

The thickness of the skull required stronger X-rays that those typically available to penetrate the fossil, the lab said. That's where the lab's electron and proton accelerators came in.

"It turns out that high-energy neutrons are an interesting and unique way to image something of this size," said Ron Nelson, who works with the lab's physics division. The skull spans 40 inches (102 centimeters).

The team, which included staff from the University of New Mexico and the University of Edinburgh, is scheduled to present its work at a paleontology conference in Canada next week.


Follow Susan Montoya Bryan on Twitter:

Related News

8,000-year-old female figurine uncovered in central Turkey

Sep 15, 2016

Archaeologists have uncovered a rare stone figurine of a woman dating back 8,000 years at a dig in Turkey's central province of Konya that an expert says is one of only a handful of statuettes from that era ever found in one piece

Powell discusses secret Israeli nukes in leaked 2015 email

Sep 16, 2016

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed Israel's nuclear weapons capability with a friend in a private email exchange last year that hackers leaked this week

Watchdog to probe Comey's, FBI's actions before election

Jan 12, 2017

The Justice Department inspector general has opened an investigation into department and FBI actions before the election, including whether FBI Director James Comey followed established policies in the email investigation of Hillary Clinton

Peaple also read these

Leonardo DiCaprio foundation backing Utah national monument

Jan 14, 2017

Leonardo DiCaprio's foundation is chipping in to support a new national monument in southern Utah that's been a flashpoint over public land use in the West

The Latest: Syria unveils new Hama statue to Assad's father

Feb 13, 2017

The Latest: Syria unveils statue of late President Hafez Assad in Hama, replacing one destroyed by protesters in 2011

WH defends Pence's use of private email while governor

Mar 3, 2017

A White House spokeswoman says Vice President Mike Pence "did everything to the letter of the law" after public records revealed that he used a private email account to conduct public business as Indiana's governor

Broaden News
Latest News

About Us

Science Thread delivers quality and fascinating science and technology content that matters on a daily basis and makes it go viral.