High-tech scan for 320 million-year-old fossil

Mar 27, 2013
High-tech scan for 320 million-year-old fossil
A scan of the skull of Megalocephalus pachycephalus. Credit: Radiology Department, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne

(Phys.org) —A 320 million-year-old fossilised skull – found in Newsham, Blyth in Northumberland in the 18th century by a local grocer – has undergone state-of-the-art CT scanning by a University of Bristol researcher at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital.

Laura Porro, Marie Curie Research Fellow in Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, together with experts from the Great North Museum, scanned the 42cm-long specimen, named Megalocephalus pachycephalus, on the hospital's newest machine.

Megalocephalus is a , a group of that includes humans and which evolved limbs with digits and crawled out of the sea and onto land. Megalocephalus is distantly related to living amphibians, such as frogs and , but had a lifestyle more similar to that of a modern crocodile.

The specimen, which dates back to the Carboniferous swamps of approximately 320 million years ago, was collected by Thomas Atthey, a local grocer known as the 'Village Palaeontologist'. It now belongs to the Natural History Society of Northumbria and is part of the Great North Museum: Hancock's natural history collection.

Dr Porro said: "As animals moved from water onto land they faced enormous challenges. They had to change the way in which they captured and ate prey, how they breathed, how they sensed the world around them, and how they moved about. All of these changes impacted the shape of their skeleton, including the skull.

"We are particularly interested in linking changes in with changes in mechanical behaviour, so we can better understand diet and jaw function in these amazing, pioneering creatures. This project is a wonderful marriage of palaeontology, biology and engineering."

Explore further: Everglades trail surveyed for cultural artifacts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Seeing inside a pterosaur skull

Mar 22, 2013

(Phys.org) —The inside of the skull of a 100-million-year-old pterosaur has been seen by Natural History Museum fossil experts for the first time. Computed tomography (CT) scans revealed details of the ...

Scientists Discover New Species of Tyrannosaur

Feb 01, 2010

New Mexico is known for amazing local cuisine, Aztec ruins and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In the January issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, paleontologists Thomas Williamson of the Ne ...

Scientists name Dorset crocodile after Kipling

Mar 22, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- A superbly preserved 130-million-year-old crocodile skull, discovered at Swanage in Dorset in 2009, has been described as belonging to a species new to science in a paper by researchers at ...

The pterodactyl that researchers forgot

Mar 26, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- An ancient fragment of a skull from a 125 million year old flying reptile has been re-interpreted to redefine how the creature lived.

Recommended for you

Secrets of dinosaur ecology found in fragile amber

9 hours ago

Ryan McKellar's research sounds like it was plucked from Jurassic Park: he studies pieces of amber found buried with dinosaur skeletons. But rather than re-creating dinosaurs, McKellar uses the tiny pieces ...

New progress of the Neogene Suidae research

Oct 17, 2014

Dr. Hou Sukuan and Prof. Deng Tao from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology(IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences reported a new species of Chleuastochoerus from the Linxia Basin, Gansu ...

User comments : 0