Better Specimens, Better Techniques, Better Understanding of the Sauropodomorpha – #365papers – 2018 – 17

Chapelle and Choiniere, 2018, A revised cranial description of Massospondylus carinatus Owen (Dinosauria: Sauropodomorpha) based on computed tomographic scans and a review of cranial characters for basal Sauropodomorpha: PeerJ, v. 6, e4224

What’s it about?

Using CT scanning techniques, the authors were able to pull apart all the bones of a sauropodomorph dinosaur called Massospondylus. The sauropodomorphs are a group of dinosaurs that include all the sauropods (the ‘long necks’ if you’re a fan of The Land Before Time), and their more primitive ancestors.

By examining all the bones of the skull one at a time, the authors were able to better understand the actual relationships between Massospondylus and other primitive sauropodomorphs.

Why does it matter?

When trying to uses ancient skeletal remains to better understand the relationships among extinct animals (and plants), more detail is better. Skull bones can be particularly informative, because they are complex and shared among all bony vertebrates. CT methods make such analysis possible and doesn’t destroy the specimen.

Why did I read this?

Can I just say that I liked the pretty pictures? I have a deep and abiding interest in CT scanning and other non-destructive visualization techniques. Maybe because all of my research is dependent on destructive sampling.

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