• It was an astonishing discovery when man found out that there were living creatures on this very Earth where he is living. The living beings were termed as “Dinosaurs” and their study as “Paleontology”. A lot of research has been done in this field since then, to discover as many species as possible. However, a need for better methods was always felt to properly analyze the fossils of these living beings. It looks like there work has now got some boost because of a new technology adopted by researchers from University of Pennsylvania. The latest method in this aspect uses a technology called Synchrotron radiation.

    Prof. Phillip Manning with synchrotron

    The research team included Prof. Phillip Manning and Prof. Peter Dodson; both are professors in Department of Earth and Environmental Science, School of arts and science, Uwe Bergmann from National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University and Roy Wogelius, University of Manchester. The team has actually invented new method for studying different fossils based on the molecules of biological species. According to an idea which says that, the proportion of elements like copper remains same in the body of a dead animal, the fossil thus obtained can be studied using the synchrotron radiations.

    Synchrotron is basically an accelerator. It is designed to generate X-rays with several million times the intensity of our Sun. Whenever an animal dies and get fossilized, though its organic constituents may decompose, still it’s metallic constituents remain buried for ages; practically millions of years. However, to get the exact status of the traces of the copper present in bodies, we require high intensity rays, which when bombarded on the metallic compounds releases energy. This energy can then be used to know the amount of copper present in fossil precisely. The X-rays are thus helpful in studying the copper molecules in the fossil and hence the fossil can be seen from a deeper perspective too.

    Moreover, we can accurately picture the distribution of pigments and other biological molecules using the spectrometer technique. However there is a limitation, which means that we are still unable to have color associated with the traced metallic compounds. We can work on monochrome, but having color associated with technique will only be possible after a thorough research.

    Prof. Manning and Prof. Dodson have earlier studied the fossils of early birds like Confuciusornis sanctus and Gansus yumenensis and feel that synchrotron can be very useful in this regard. Some copper molecules bound with melanin molecules were distinguished by the team. The next discovery of any Bird primate can be quickly studied upon with synchrotron. The research in this regard is published in the July 1 edition of Journal Science.

    Source: UPENN
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