Professors of Biology at the University of South Florida, Ryan Carney, has been using virtual reality (VR) technology to digitally recreate specimens of Archaeopteryx in an attempts to discover how dinosaurs evolved into birds.
The process began with Carney digitizing the fossil samples using an X-Ray micro tomosynthesis instrument along with laser scanning and photogrammetry. The fossils were then recreated in a virtual reality environment using computer animation tools. The result was effectively an interactive hologram of a dinosaur, which can be used by other palaeontologists and students to get a closer look at the long-dead creatures they are attempting to study.
Only 12 Archaeopteryx fossils have been found so far, so existing samples for scientists to study are rare and valuable. Having a digital recreation will be extremely useful for ongoing work to understand the link between dinosaur and modern birds. TheArchaeopteryx is believed to be something of a ‘missing link’ between modern birds and dinosaurs as it shows some resemblance to features from modern-day birds, such as feathers and a brain large enough to perform the complex actions necessary for flight.
The Archaeopteryx bird lived in the Tithonian era of the Jurassic period, approximately 150 million years ago, it was about the size of a magpie, though with much broader wings. It still had several dinosaur features, though, such as sharp teeth and three-clawed feet with an extensible ‘killing claw’.
The funding for the project is being provided by the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Foundation and Waitt Foundation, who provided Professor Carney with a $10,000 (USD) grant to continue his work.
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