Posted: Aug 9, 2013 3:42 PM by Victoria Fregoso - MTN News
Updated: Aug 9, 2013 3:43 PM
BILLINGS - Researchers have closed in on one of the many unknown mysteries about dinosaurs. Princeton University Senior Evan Saitta now has evidence there is a link between the back plates on a stegosaurus and its gender.
Sexual Dimorphism is the term for this scientific idea and applies to many modern-day animals such as elk, deer and antelope just to name a few. Males have antlers whereas females do not. The same applies to stegosaurus dinosaurs with the difference in back plate shape.
Saitta is the first to prove this theory for the stegosaurus. "Dinosaurs with their spikes and crests and frills and horns seem like prime candidates for this idea, this biological idea," Saitta stated.
Stegosaurus dinosaurs were about the size of an elephant. The back plates were most likely used for display. The two sets of fossils used in this research came from a dinosaur quarry about two hours north of Billings.
Making this breakthrough on a 150-million-year-old fossil has taken a countless number of man-hours and dedication.
"This whole process takes a lot longer than what people realize," Saitta said. "One summer of digging and retrieval of bones can take up to five years in the lab to get them prepped out completely."
This step forward in dinosaur research is possible with the help of Billings Clinic. Using a CT scan machine, researchers were able to see inside of stegosaurus back plates, allowing for further examination.
"Advancing science is part of the core of who we are and what we do as an organization," said Billings Clinic Foundation President Jim Duncan. "So we were very excited to be involved in this really amazing research effort."
The work doesn't stop here; Even though Saitta discovered there is a difference in the plate structure of male and female stegosaurus dinosaurs, Saitta has yet to determine exactly which back plates belong to a male and which plates belong to a female Stegosaurus.
This wasn't Billings Clinic first time assisting with a dinosaur fossil scan. But the stegosaurus back plates scanned Thursday evening are the oldest ones to go through Billings Clinic yet.