Investigator:

Brian Andres and Rachel Racicot

Advisor: Jacques Gauthier

Description:

One of the greatest tools in the arsenal of paleontologists is the use of CT-scanners. These machines allow unprecedented non-destructive observation of the internal structures of fossils. However, these machines produce large datasets and require computationally intensive programs, both of which surpass the capabilities of the facilities in paleontology and in the Geology department as a whole. The computing facilities of the Center will be used to run the Aviso program which can create 3D digital images from the CT-scanned bitmap data.

The specific project is the construction of 3D images of a jaw fragment from Texas to demonstrate that it is the oldest pterodactyl specimen. This pterodactyl species shows amazing convergence with the teeth of primitive insectivorous mammals. 3D internal data will show that these are separate occurrences of this type of teeth and that the early evolution of the pterodactyls and mammals were fueled by a diet of insects.