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Radiographics. 2012 Sep-Oct;32(5):1553-9. doi: 10.1148/rg.325115742.

Scenes from the past: initial investigation of early jurassic vertebrate fossils with multidetector CT.

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  • 1Institute of Forensic Medicine, Department of Forensic Medicine and Imaging, University of Bern, Buehlstrasse 20, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland.


The study of fossils permits the reconstruction of past life on our planet and enhances our understanding of evolutionary processes. However, many fossils are difficult to recognize, being encased in a lithified matrix whose tedious removal is required before examination is possible. The authors describe the use of multidetector computed tomography (CT) in locating, identifying, and examining fossil remains of crocodilians (Mesosuchia) embedded in hard shale, all without removing the matrix. In addition, they describe how three-dimensional (3D) reformatted CT images provided details that were helpful for extraction and preparation. Multidetector CT can help experienced paleontologists localize and characterize fossils in the matrix of a promising rock specimen in a nondestructive manner. Moreover, with its capacity to generate highly accurate 3D images, multidetector CT can help determine whether the fossils warrant extraction and can assist in planning the extraction process. Thus, multidetector CT may well become an invaluable tool in the field of paleoradiology.

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