Thursday, August 03, 2006
It's a rare occasion when a scientist gets an up-close look at dinosaur skin - or at least the fossilized impression of dinosaur skin.
Brian Platt, a doctoral student in geology at the University of Kansas, traveled to Wyoming last spring for his research project. At a recently discovered dinosaur track site at the Jurassic Morrison Formation, Platt and his adviser, Steve Hasiotis, associate professor of geology at KU, examined multiple tracks to find impressions of dino-skin, left by such sauropods as Brachiosaurus or Apatosaurus.
"The way the site is, the tracks are preserved as natural casts on the underside of sandstone. Because they're underneath the sandstone you can't see the tracks unless they weather away," Platt said.
To the untrained eye, the casts look more like small boulders tucked at the bottom of a layer of rock.
But under one cast Hasiotis found a textured surface made of raised polygonal shapes with about five or six sides, each about a centimeter in width. In between the tiny shapes, the skin appeared to recess into a v-shape, attached by small spurs of skin.
Palaios, a journal that emphasizes the impact of life on Earth's history, published Platt's and Hasiotis' findings in June (Abstract).