FROM THE EDUCATION DESK
It is very hot as I write this newsletter for July…Although I love it, I do wish we had some more rain…we so need it!
A cast of Dinosaur Linheraptor…the original was found when a single claw was exposed in a hillside.
Technology has revolutionized science but it can’t beat good eyes for finding fossils. Science and technology go hand in hand along with the advances in Paleontology with everything from scanning electron microscopes, 3-D printing and photogrammetric models to name a few. These are all playing a role in uncovering the past.
However, finding fossils remains remarkably low tech for the most part. Expeditions run by experienced researchers still basically rely on people looking for fossils. You walk around and look for fossils. Ground penetrating radar has been used to find fossils but the fossil bones are generally of very similar densities to the rocks in which they sit, so getting a measurable difference between them which would show you where to dig is difficult. Some bones have been found with Geiger counters. This only works with large bones that are near the surface which are also radioactive. These machines are not only expensive but can be large and require electricity. An expert fossil hunter can cover far more ground and more effectively than most of these machines.
Looking for fossils on the surface which are just starting to erode out of the ground is quick and effective. Paleontologists do not just roam around at random but usually start with areas that are geologically of the correct age and rock type to hold the fossils they are looking for. Scientists are also focused on regions of high erosion. If the rocks and soils are eroding, then buried bones will come to the surface where they can be found.
Paleontologists are still reliant on a keen eye and a detailed knowledge of anatomy. It has served them well over the years and probably will be the primary method of fossil hunting for another century or more.