CT Scan of Fossil

North Star's X-View ISG Inspection Services Group was recently contacted with an exciting and unique request. The Science Museum of Minnesota wanted x-ray images of a fossilized Jurassic period crocodile skull that had been discovered on a ranch in Wyoming. The entire find had been undergoing extensive recovery work at the museum over the last 5+ years. Dr. Bruce Erickson, a paleontologist and nationally recognized expert in his field, was interested in 2-dimensional x-rays of the Goniopholis skull in order to confirm or reject certain theories regarding its structure and function. When Dr. Erickson and his colleagues arrived at North Star, they were introduced to Computed Tomography (CT) and the 3-dimensional imaging it produces. They quickly decided that CT scans would be much more valuable than 2-D x-rays to their investigative process.

CT uses a series of 2-dimensional images taken at specific intervals around the circumference of the sample. The skull was carefully placed in a sand-filled container, with the snout pointed upward, and images were taken at ½ degree increments as the sample was rotated. After acquiring the images, the data was sent to the CT workstation where it was prepared for reconstruction. One of the advantages of NSI’s CT software is that a quick preview of the reconstruction results can be generated within moments of completing the scan. When this preview appeared on the screen, the Science Museum staff was amazed. “What we were able to see far exceeded our expectations.” Dr. Erickson explained. “We came to NSI prepared to analyze the 2-dimensional x-ray images to see if anything valuable could be gleaned from them. What we were presented with was a view of the past that we had never seen before and which we were not prepared for. It was stunning! The amount and quality of the data from North Star’s CT scans will be instrumental in our scientific efforts on this and many future projects.”

NSI’s Inspection Services Manager, Jeff Diehm, says that he enjoyed the opportunity to work on this truly unique project. “It was a rare opportunity. To provide information to the scientific community that they have never seen before and which will be vital to their efforts is both rewarding and exhilarating. While we are used to providing 2-dimensional and advanced CT imaging on medical devices, aerospace components and a variety of other parts, a 150,000,000 year-old crocodile skull was a first for us and we’re glad we could be of assistance to Dr. Erickson and the Science Museum in this effort.”

For more information on North Star’s Inspection Services Group and the services they provide, please visit our website at www.xrayinspectionservice.com or call at (763) 463-5696. More information about Dr. Bruce Erickson and his work: http://www.smm.org/paleontology/erickson/