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New Method Helps Identify Dinosaur Bones

Wyoming Dinosaur Center & Dig Sites

Dinosaur bones are often scattered around, so it's important to figure out what bones belong to the same animal. That's difficult to do, but a new method may help.

Kayleigh Wiersma-Weyand, a paleontology researcher at the University of Bonn in Germany, said her team looked at dinosaur bones in the Bighorn Basin.

"What we used as a method is called bone histology," she said. "Basically, what we do is we cut up a bone, or in this case we drilled out a core bit out of the bone which is about 1.5 centimeters in diameter. And we looked at the bone microstructure."

Wiersma-Weyand said the bones represent an animal's life history.

"When we look at a cross section of these long neck dinosaur bones, it looks really similar to a tree cross section," she said. "Trees have these growth rings and bones do exactly the same."

The bones from a single dinosaur will all have matching growth rings. That structure, where the bones are located, and how deep they are buried can help scientists decide which bones belong to the same animal.

Wiersma-Weyand said that's especially important for identifying new species.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.

Ashley is a PhD student in Astronomy and Physics at UW. She loves to communicate science and does so with WPM, on the Astrobites blog, and through outreach events. She was born in Colorado and got her BS in Engineering Physics at Colorado School of Mines. Ashley loves hiking and backpacking during Wyoming days and the clear starry skies at night!
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