Cutting-edge imaging technology isn’t just helping us tiny humans — it’s helping solve a dinosaur identity crisis. Researchers have developed a brand-new imaging technique that builds a 3D image of a dinosaur skull, creating a CAT scan-style readout. They say this technique proves that what we thought were three separate species of dinosaur are actually the exact same creatures.
It turns out, planet earth hasn’t been so kind to those prehistoric overgrown lizards. After an asteroid blew them into oblivion, the pressure of being buried underground while life went on without them damaged different fossilized skulls in different ways. Researchers originally saw these differences among members of the Psittacosaurus (or “parrot lizard”) family, and decided they were markers of different species. Now, using a hand-held laser scanner to create 3D models of 30 different skulls, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania examined 56 “landmark” anatomical features shared by all of the skulls. They concluded that what we thought were three different species are actually all members of the Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis family. They just got messed up, being buried for millions of years and all.
The new imaging technique could help researchers re-examine thousands of different fossils, perhaps leading thousands of long-lost members of the same dinosaur families to finally be reunited. Though it might be a pain getting “Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis Family Reunion 2013″ printed on a t-shirt. [PhysOrg]