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National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center Unveils the Secrets of Dinosaur Teeth

Date: 
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Contact: 

Elsa Ming-tzu Shih | User Administration & Promotion Office, National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center | shih.elsa@nsrrc.org.tw | +886-3-5780281 ext. 8207

Fossil teeth of Tyrannosaurus 

Dinosaur fossils appear in Taiwan

Do you know why no dinosaur fossils were discovered in Taiwan? Dinosaurs were extinct 65 million years ago. While the island of Formosa didn’t appear until 6 million years ago, there was no way dinosaurs could stay on this island alive. Fortunately today dinosaurs get to the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center (NSRRC) with the help of scientists.

Two years ago, Yao-Chang Lee (NSRRC), Cheng-Cheng Chiang (NSRRC), Timothy D. Huang (archaeologist), Rong-Seng Chang (NCU) and the researchers from University of Toronto have published a paper in Nature. The paper was selected as the cover photo of that issue and one of the images of the year in 2013. They are the first Asian scientists that have appeared on the cover of Nature. This team reunited to conduct research and published their latest results on the teeth of dinosaur in Scientific Reports.

Steak knife VS dinosaur teeth

The deeply serrated teeth of dinosaurs

In the film Jurassic World, Indominus rex and Theropoda dinosaurs run rampant across the island park and prey the others. The unique structure of their teeth is similar to the deep serrated steak knife, endowing them with advantages on tearing and chewing the bones and muscles of large animals during close fights. This inherency kept them on top of predators for 165 million years. Among the existent animals, only Komodo Dragon in Indonesia keeps this teeth structure.

IR Microscopy sees the insights of life in the distant past
“If you would like to see through the structure of a dinosaur tooth, first you need to slide it in 20 µm of thickness, then you compare its molecular fingerprints using Infrared Micro-Spectroscopy, and finally you understand its chemical components and see the analytical images. The key is the thickness of the sample,” Chiang pointed out. “The medium-sized IR light produced by synchrotron light source must be minimized to 10 µm (nearly 1/10 of the size of human hair),” Lee said. “The extraordinary film- cutting technique and IR Microscopy with extremely high resolution at the NSRRC makes this important and exciting experiment possible. These ‘aged elders’, including Tyrannosaurus rex and Allosaurus, have finally come to Taiwan for this reason after wandering for 65 million years.”

IR Microscopy can be useful for cancer screening

Aside from adapting IR Microscopy to the paleontological life, the same techniques can also be useful in a completely different research domain for greatly improving cancer screening tests.

IR Microscopy endstation at the NSRRC

The cancer cell cannot be discovered until 1 mm with traditional method. Using IR Microscopy, the cancer cell might be discovered at 1 µm, aiding the early detection of any potential cancer cells in the clinical diagnosis process. The newly-inaugurated Taiwan Photon Source will play a critical role in the development of this significant technology.

 

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