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Airdate: Apr 02, 2015
Scientist: Sterling Nesbitt

Dino Lab - One Scrape at a Time

Dino Lab - One Scrape at a Time
Find a rare fossil skeleton of a dinosaur in the field, bring it to the lab, and then the work of extracting it begins.

Transcript:
Dino Lab One Scrape at a Time

Nesbitt: This animal is one of the most complete early dinosaurs ever discovered from North America. Early carnivorous dinosaurs from the Triassic, which lasted about 250 to 200 million years ago, are very rare, and this skeleton right here is incredible.

You find a rare fossil skeleton of a dinosaur in the field, you bring it to the lab, and then the work of extracting it begins. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Nesbitt: So, this is what we call a pin vise. It's a tool about four inches long, and it has a very sharp needle at one end.

Sterling Nesbitt is an Assistant Professor in Geosciences at Virginia Tech. Sitting in front of a fossil dinosaur encased in rock, he wields his pin vise and gently picks away at the rock, like a sculptor.

Ambience: Pin Vise

Nesbitt: So, I'm very delicately attacking the rock here with this needle looking for tiny, little bone fragments. Hopefully, the rock lifts right off the bone surface. So, once we expose a certain area maybe a square centimeter, then we hit it with glue to make sure all the pieces hold together. So, what we're looking at right now is a very long bone, or limb bone so, part of the lower leg and there are breaks all throughout it.

It's like putting together and intricate bone jigsaw puzzle. Slowly, an overall picture of the of the structure of the dinosaur appears.

Nesbitt: It walked on two legs. It had pretty short arms, but with big claws, and had a long, pointy snout with lots of recurved, serrated-like steak knife teeth. So, it was a carnivorous dinosaur, or what we call a theropod, and the other animals that belonged to that group include Velociraptor and T. rex.

I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.