Figuring out Fossils

Depending upon the degree of fragmentatin of the fossil bone material, reassembly often begins with pieceing together each individual bone. This is done using B72 adhesive to fit together fragments. Though fragments may be adjoined with relative certainty based upon the distinct signature left by each fracture, it is important that the adhesive be reversable as well as strong - B72 is reversable when used on bones coated in B72 acetone. Once reassembled, each bone is then sketched and reviewed in light of its initial field observation. Additionally, casts may be taken of rare or particularly well preserved bones, so that the orginal fossils can be replaced by fiberglass replicas for museum display.

The actual reassemblage of a 3-dimentionally mounted dinosaur skeleton can require the expertise of a number of palaeontologists, zoologists, and artists, and may take years to be completed. Techniques for constructing a dinosaur skeleton combine both comparative and functional approaches. For example, in sauropod skeletal reconstruction where body mass determines critical limiting factors, information can be drawn from large modern tetrapods such as elephants. Using a variety of approaches to discern a reasonable skeletal structure from the fossilized bone can also help to define the life habits of the dinosaur specimen. One instance of ecological data extracted from a dinosaur reconstruction comes from the Leicester Museum (England). At Leicester experiments were conducted by manipulating the neck vertabrae of a 3-D dinosaur skeleton in which the bones were suspended by wires attached to metal frame to test the range of rotation of the neck. Additionally, 3-D mounts are useful in determining elements related to stance, musculature, and locomotion.


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