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3D imaging of enigmatic tiny eggs with embryos from the Lower Cretaceous of Thailand using phase contrast X-ray synchrotron microtomography
 
SVPCA Conference
 
Platform presentation (20 minutes)
Authors
 
*Eric Buffetaut
 
 
Vincent Fernandez
 
 
Paul Tafforeau
,
Abstract
 
Recently, very small eggs containing embryos have been discovered in the Early Cretaceous Sao Khua Formation of northeastern Thailand. So far, the systematic position of these eggs could only be inferred from eggshell characters. Their surface ornamentation is typical of non-avian saurischian dinosaurs (Buffetaut et al., 2005), while the three-layered prismatic microstructure is currently known only in extant and fossil bird eggs. Due to the size of these eggs (about the size of a goldfinch’s) and to the nature of the hard calcitic matrix that fills the crushed shell, manual or chemical excavation is not possible. In order to study these important specimens without destroying them, we used X-ray propagation phase contrast microtomography at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (Grenoble). This revealed the embryos in three dimensions with a very high accuracy that would not have been possible using classical absorption microtomography. A nearly complete embryo has now been segmented with a voxel size of 16 microns permitting the identification of most of the bones. Three other eggs have been scanned and seem to show different stages of bone development. A higher resolution segmentation is under way with a 5 microns voxel size revealing structures that were invisible on the first datasets. The 3D processing of these scans will allow a complete anatomical study of these tiny skeletons in order to determine their position in the context of the dinosaur-bird transition
London 2020