Friday, 7 January 2011

Great Images from Grenoble

The BBC reports on some exquisite pictures produced at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble.  They've been using the most intense X-rays in Europe to look inside some fossils of straight-shelled ammonites, and the detail they're seeing is just amazing.  Jenny and her research associate, Stephanie Pearce, went to Grenoble last autumn to use the same facility to look in side some early tetrapod fossils, with rather more mixed results, unfortunately.

Until now, no-one had any evidence for what ammonites actually ate.  It was thought that they were carnivorous, but without evidence, that could not be confirmed.

The middle image in this composite picture shows, not very clearly, a mass of radula teeth and the remains of a small crustacean.  As you can see from the 1mm scale bar, the whole thing is pretty small.  If you go to the BBC report there's a video showing the radula teeth much more clearly.

What is amazing about the ESRF is the fineness of detail that you can see if the imaging process works.  The different bits of the specimen must be of different transparencies to X-rays, otherwise nothing shows up.  When it works, it's fantastic, and you can see things you'd never spot any other way. Fabulous!

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