How did the dinosaurs have actually moved paleontologists no longer work with shovel and brush, but also with drones, scanners and lasers. In computer you then run as a digital 3-D models by stitching dinosaurs. Could Plateosaurus on its hind legs stand? Such questions go researcher with modern technology to Jurassic Park before the tragic incident. Amazement watching the visitors a huge Brachiosaurus grazing. In order to supply the more than 20-ton body with sufficient energy, the long-necked herbivores slipped kilos of greens. In Hollywood blockbusters, the Brachiosaurus is even on their hind legs to reach juicy treetops.
Fiction for an impressive screen scene? This question is followed by Heinrich Mallison Berlin Museum of Natural History and although using modern computer simulations. "We use similar methods as engineers in the automotive industry. Using simulations, we can have different loads on the body calculate fairly accurately," he explains.
The result at the Brachiosaurus: The strain on the hip joints would when getting up on the columnar hind legs quite large, however, the height advantage was rather modest. Only four feet wins the long-necked by his balancing act. For smaller relatives such as the Diplodocus the loads significantly lower and also the size of profit with eight meters would be higher.
"Hollywood has probably picked the wrong long-necked dinosaur for erecting" says Mallison. Whether the smaller Diplodocus now actually set to eat or to mate on their hind legs, we do not know of course, adds to the paleontologist. But it was possible in theory. Modern technology saves time and money
Dinosaurs in "Jurassic World" out of control
Paleontology has long been a digitized science. In addition to shovel and brush today include laser scanners, CAD programs and drones to tools for the study of prehistoric life. "The new methods do not replace the digging by hand. But they are a large workload," says Eberhard "Dino" Frey from the Natural History Museum in Karlsruhe.
The relief starts with the excavation preparations. Researchers from the air to gain by drone an initial overview of the sites and all visible bones. Earlier days maps were drawn and created for inventories. With a drone Frey takes only a few hours.
"Our expedition budgets are tight and time is money. The faster we have an overview, the faster we can with the salvage of the discoveries begin," he says. Here, laser scanners and cameras have become useful tools - for example, in securing fossil footprints.
With a handy laser scanner can be measured and convert the tracks still spot on the tablet into three-dimensional models. The conventional variant are latex casts. An expensive proposition, as Frey, calculates: "For a larger track, we need up to 40 buckets with 20 liters of latex per bucket we pay almost 500 euros.." An expression of the footprints with a 3-D printer is significantly less expensive.
Bone will be screened by CT
At a construction site in the city of Heyuan in Guangdong Province of southeast China, there has been an impressive Fund. Much "analog", however, is the recovery of dinosaur bones. The delicate fossils are dug up and saved as a hundred years ago with a hoe, shovel and brush. After that they get often a protective plaster corset for transportation.
"There have been attempts to locate bones still in the rock. For example, by measuring radioactivity, gravimetry or seismic analysis. Practicable these methods are not yet," says Oliver Wings from the Landesmuseum Hannover. In order to salvage the bones by hand paleontologists therefore not come around.
The subsequent preparation in the museum there is no alternative to this day - almost. An alternative is the virtual preparation. Influenced have this term paleontologists from the Berlin Museum of Natural History. This method remains rock screened by x-enclosed bone in CT scanners and converted the fossils later on the computer in virtual models. In practice, very useful, as an example from Berlin shows.
Almost 100 years slumbered excavated dinosaur bones in the archives of the Natural History Museum - well protected by a plaster block. In 1910 researchers dug in Tanzania about 235 tons Dino bones and brought them to Berlin. At the same time Bargen paleontologists in Halberstadt also bones of the dinosaur Plateosaurus.
The problem is that bombing during the Second World War, the sorting of various preparations came confusion. Without labels the gypsum blocks could not be clearly assigned to a reference. To avoid a complicated opening of the blocks, the researchers screened them in the computer tomograph of the Berlin Charité.
As with medical CT scans thereby the X-ray source rotates around the plaster block. This creates a lot of two-dimensional cross-sectional images of the inside. Rock, plaster and bone can be distinguished it well. "In a gypsum tuber we found a vertebra of Plateosaurus from Halberstadt. Until then, it was assumed that the bones come from Africa," said Wings.
The image data of the vertebral bone were processed in 3-D Laboratory at the Technical University Berlin and printed with a 3-D printer. The result: a plastic bone, the human vertebral quite similar, only four times as large.
Entire Museum archives are digitized. Carnivorous terror birds
The CT-fluoroscopy and digital processing are not only gentler on the often very sensitive fossils, but also have great potential for their research, explains Mallison: "With an increasing digitization of the finds themselves could access to rare fossils and thus speed up the exploration. "
Today, scientists often have to travel for a look at a rare exhibit around the world. In rare cases, fossils are also sent - an expensive and tricky endeavor. Careless handling may damage the valuable pieces. A vision of the future: Digitized bone findings are available in international databases for researchers worldwide.
Using 3-D printers can be printed out particularly interesting fossils and investigate further. First tentative efforts in this direction are already available. An increasing number of scientific studies with 3-D models and corresponding records are published. A large digitization project currently underway at the Berlin Museum of Natural History. The curators rely on photogrammetry.
How it works: Man photographing the dinosaur bones from all angles. After a software looks at each picture for common points and arranges the shots so in the correct position. Excavations by paleontologists draw itself to the camera, for the digitization of museum archive needs it already effective technique.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Competence Center for digitization of cultural heritage has therefore specially developed a "road Scan". Nine cameras are thereby pivoted to an aluminum sheet hemispherical around the object. There are independent light sources and a robotic arm with an additional camera. So there are no blind spots on the object. From up to 6000 shots three-dimensional models of the bones are then developed on the computer. Crocodiles and birds as movement inspirations
This dinosaur just wants to play
At the computer, these items consist easily to all dinosaur skeletons. Missing parts are simply added digitally. Even the reconstruction of muscle attachments and movement patterns is possible - with one important limitation. "We can only speculate. Neither ligaments, tendons or cartilage have been preserved in the fossil joints. For statements about the movement but they are crucial," said Mallison.
One hundred percent security to the muscles, proportions or the mobility of the dinosaurs, there is no reason. Quite a risk, as the paleontologist explains. "Moving images are believed faster than numbers or texts. Unfortunately, so obvious computer simulations tempt also to hasty conclusions."
Therefore, a thorough, very undigitale interpretation of the finds is more important. Researchers grab it back on similar structures in present-day animals. Popular models are crocodiles and birds. From their body and their movements can be estimated approximately how the dinosaurs might have to move.
An example of such a simulation is to study the valor of Kentrosaurus aethiopicus. In research circles of herbivores with the sting proven tail was long regarded as cumbersome and little defensive. A new simulation came to a different conclusion. Inspired by the tails of lizards and crocodiles, researchers possible Peitschbewegungen of spiked tail to virtual.
Even conservative estimates showed a mobility greater than 90 degrees and a Peitschgeschwindigkeit of over 70 kilometers per hour. The study examined the skeleton of the dinosaur was unearthed by the way a century ago and since then has often been studied. The new knowledge about the lifestyle and behavior of the very defensive dinosaur but were made possible by the digitization of paleontology.