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Thanks to the newly opened museum exhibition, visitors to Auburn University can travel in time by 82 million years.
Millions of years ago, fragile dinosaur eggs about 2 inches long were brought into the sea and protected by layers of sediment on an incredible journey. In the 1970s, a group of teenagers discovered fossilized eggs near Selma, Alabama. One of these teenagers, Prescott Atkinson, later underwent a CT scan of the egg after graduating from medical school.
The dinosaur egg, which contains an intact embryo, which is the most complete dinosaur specimen in the eastern United States, was unveiled on June 1 at a public exhibition at the Rouse Life Sciences Building, part of the University of Auburn or the AUMNH Natural History Museum. collections.
“It’s very unique and there is no such thing,” said Jonathan Armbruster, director of AUMNH. “It is of great scientific value. »
Inside the Rouse Life Sciences building around the first-floor rotunda is a wall display with a dinosaur egg and an interactive tablet. Visitors can learn about the area where the egg was found and the characteristics, and people can also view CT scans and see the real bones inside the egg.
“An egg can teach us a lot,” Armbruster said.
There is little information about the dinosaurs that inhabited the east coast of the United States, especially since the region is covered with vegetation other than the western United States.
“Eggs were dated 82 million years ago using radiometric methods that determine specific isotypes and date sediment layers,” Armbruster said.
Once a delicate egg, it now has a dense structure.
“Over time, the egg turned yellow or turned to stone,” he added. “He had a whole hull and no one knew what was inside. »
James Lamb of the Black Belt Museum at the University of West Alabama studied a copy borrowed from Auburn while working on his doctorate. He removed the part of the shell that revealed the embryonic bones and continued on the path of this egg.
Atkinson, who first found an egg as a teenager and later became a doctor, underwent a CT scan, but medical examinations failed to separate the bones from the stone.
“This egg shows why museums matter,” Atkinson said. “It is now preserved for people to see and allows us to learn more about the fascinating role of science. »
The egg traveled to Grenoble, France, to undergo more detailed X-rays on the European synchrotron, where it was possible to obtain digital images to identify the bones and confirm that the specimen is a real dinosaur egg.
“The fact that Atkinson was in the right place 82 million years after laying the egg in the sediment is absolutely incredible,” Armbruster said.
Toni Bruner, AUMNH, and Ray Wilhite, Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine, also contributed to this project.
“This specimen is forever preserved and now everyone can learn more about it,” Armbruster said.