Tuesday, March 11, 2014

X-Rays of the Fossil Jaw

X-Rays of the fossil jaw

Dan O'Loughlin of the NARG group, who is a veterinarian, has been nice enough to try to X-ray a jaw fragment that has teeth in it. It turns out that 'how teeth are connected to the jaw bone' is an important criteria in the classification of animals. Here's a link to a web article: http://qilong.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/tooth-implantation-pit2/ and of course there is a lot more info available. 
First of all, here's a picture of the jaw fragment in question: 
It has nice teeth, well connected into the jaw. I picked it since the teeth in the skull look exactly like this, so we know this fragment and the skull go together. 

Next, Dan took X-rays using several different settings of time, intensity and wavelength. A few are attached:

Finally, I took one of the best photographs and tried to manipulate it so as to improve the contrast around the tooth root which is important for this classification: 
 Picture manipulated to improve root contrast:
Even after all this not much can be seen. This can be because the normal tissue space occupied by ligaments in living organisms is all filled with minerals from the matrix - in this case calcium carbonate (limestone). If we need more data another analysis is needed - perhaps at the synchrotron facility at the U of Texas in Austin! 

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