CT Scans and Fossils

We all know time machines don’t exist… right? Well of course not. Luckily, a technology that we already have may just be the next best thing. CT scans have become a useful tool in paleontology, able to reveal things that even the best naked eye cannot see.

CT scans offer a better alternative to x-rays, because the latter may actually damage a fossil. Oftentimes in paleontology, very small, unique and irreplaceable fossils are used, and the greatest care must be taken with them, lest we lose it forever. With a CT scan, researchers can build a 3-D model of the artifact, both inside and out. This type of research allows internal detail to be studied without having to grind the fossil down.

Researchers recently scanned the skulls of Elasmosaurid plesiosaurs – imagine the Loch Ness Monster – from different periods in the Cretaceous. By analyzing different skulls from various points in the species’ 22 million year existence, they found that the animal barely evolved during that time. They all shared the same basic skull shape, which is unprecedented for a species that lived over such a long period. We’d never have known this information without this specific technology. Researchers will continue to make more discoveries all while saving the fossils for museum exhibits, all thanks to CT scans. Who knew they had more uses outside of the medical field?

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