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Palaeontologist reveals a dinosaur belly button using laser imaging

Paleontologist reveals a dinosaur beak using laser imaging

The early Cretaceous horned dinosaur Psittacosaurus was discovered in northeastern China and is a distant relative of Triceratops. Credit: Julius T. Csotonei

Paleontologists have set a new record for the oldest navel ever found in reptiles and mammals after scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and around the world used high-tech laser imaging technology to finally capture the finest details of a 125 million years old dinosaur fossil found in China 20 years ago.

dr. Michael Pittman, assistant professor of the CUHK’s School of Life Sciences and co-corresponding author of the study, applied the laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF) technique to a fossilized skin sample of Psittacosaurus, a six-foot-tall and two-legged herbivore lived in China during the Cretaceous Period. dr. Pittman said: “Using LSF imaging, we identified distinctive scales that surrounded a long navel scar in the Psittacosaurus specimen, similar to certain living lizards and crocodiles. We call this type of scar a navel and it is smaller in humans. This specimen is the first dinosaur fossil to retain a navel, which is due to its exceptional state of preservation.”

Unlike humans, dinosaurs did not have umbilical cords because they laid eggs. Instead, dinosaurs’ yolk sac was attached directly to the body through a slit-like opening, which is also found in other egg-laying land animals. It is this opening that closed around the time the animal hatched, leaving behind a distinctive long navel scar. Although the egg-laying nature of dinosaurs predicts a long navel scar, this study is the first to support this hypothesis with fossil evidence.

Paleontologist reveals a dinosaur beak using laser imaging

3D reconstruction of a supine Psittacosaurus with the long umbilical cord scar surrounded by distinctive scales identified by the research team. Credit: Jagged Fang Designs

“While this beautiful specimen has been a sensation since it was described in 2002, we have been able to study it in a whole new light using new laser fluorescence imaging, which reveals the shells in incredible detail,” said Dr. pittman.

dr. Phil R. Bell of the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, the study’s lead and co-corresponding author, noted, “This Psittacosaurus specimen is probably the most important fossil we have for studying the skin of dinosaurs. But it continues to yield surprises that we can bring to life with new technology like laser imaging.”

The copy is on display at the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt, Germany.

Paleontologist reveals a dinosaur beak using laser imaging

Laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF) image of the entire Psittacosaurus specimen showing the location of the umbilical cord scar. Inserts show the close-up of the umbilical cord scar, including the distinctive scales surrounding it (highlighted in blue in the line drawing). Credit: Bell et al. 2022

The research team also includes Dr. Christophe Hendrickx of the Unidad Ejecutora Lillo in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina and Mr. Thomas G. Kaye of the Foundation for Scientific Advancement in Arizona, USA

The findings are published in the International Journal of Biology BMC Biology.


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More information:
Phil R. Bell et al, Oldest Preserved Umbilical Cord Scar Reveals Dinosaurs Had ‘Umbilical Knots’, BMC Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1186/s12915-022-01329-9

Provided by the Chinese University of Hong Kong

Quote: Paleontologist reveals a dinosaur beak using laser imaging (2022, June 9,), retrieved June 9, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-palaeontologist-reveals-dinosaur-belly-button.html

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