75-million-year-old turtle goes through CT scan for eggs

WASHINGTON - A 75-million-year-old turtle went under the CT scan at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital recently for the presence of eggs, embryos etc.

The turtle fossil was only the second in the world found with eggs inside it, said Michael Knell, a Montana State University (MSU) graduate student in earth sciences.

His turtle came from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Kanab, Utah. The previously described turtle, which was found in Alberta, is also an Adocus and lived about the same time.

Knell wanted his fossil scanned to see if he could find a skull and more eggs and learn whether or not the eggs contained embryos.

‘It allows us to peer inside without digging into it,’ Knell said. ‘It gives us a hands-off look without having to break anything.’

‘It’s a lot easier than scanning people,’ said CT technician Tanya Spence, who has scanned dinosaur fossils for MSU Museum of the Rockies.

She didn’t need to tell the fossil what it would experience during the CT scan. She didn’t need to ask the turtle to hold her breath. She didn’t worry about IV tubes or claustrophobia.

Spence operated the scanner from an adjoining room while Knell and Jackson looked over her shoulders as the images appeared — slice by slice — on Spence’s computer screen.

‘It’s very, very dense,’ Spence said of the shell. ‘You can lose some detail when that happens. You have to penetrate enough to see, but you can sometime lose detail that way.’

Jackson said CT scans generally work better on fossils than X-rays and MRIs do.

‘Usually embryo bone doesn’t show up too well on a CT scan, so we might not be able to see embryos very well, but it could clue you in that you need to look at the eggs a little closer,’ Jackson added.

As time went by, the scientists realized that the eggs weren’t showing up as clearly as they’d expected and they’d need to examine the images more closely.

As a result, Spence saved her images to a disc and gave it to Knell. He and Jackson said they would contact the Museum of the Rockies, which has special software for looking at CT images from a variety of angles.

The researchers are slated to present their findings during the fourth international Symposium on Dinosaur Eggs and Babies, in August at the MSU, said the release.


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