“Taking a pterodactyl’s temperature can be tricky”

Open wide Mr. mastedon or Ms. pterodactyl
Measuring the temperature of these ancient giants could take a thermometer of mega proportions.

Until now there was no way to determine the temperature of a long deceased animal. Lots of inferences were made about which animal was colder blooded or the . However which one might be colder than the other there was no way to tell. Using the conventional thermometer and stick it in its’ mouth or up the other end proved impossible.

Now

There an indirect way to measure an extinct animals temperature. How?
Chemistry my friend chemistry, by using a paleothermometer analyzing the rare isotopes in the animals’ bones, teeth, and eggshells.

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) reported in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this week the first method for the indirect measurement of the body temperatures of large extinct vertebrates.
What are they using? Chemistry my friend chemistry, through the analysis of rare isotopes in the animals’ bones, teeth, and eggshells.

By analyzing the concentrations of two rare isotopes—carbon-13 (Carbon-13 (13C) is a natural, stable isotope of carbon and one of the environmental isotopes. It makes up about 1.1% of all natural carbon on Earth) and oxygen-18 (Oxygen-18 (18O) is a natural, stable isotope of oxygen and one of the environmental isotopes.). “These heavy isotopes like to bond, or clump together, and this clumping effect is dependent on temperature. ” says Caltech postdoctoral scholar Robert Eagle, the paper’s first author. “At very hot temperatures, the isotopes expand and there is greater distances between them so there is a more random distribution.  Less clumping occurs at high temperatures. At low temperatures, there is more clustering  or bonding.

When a animal is alive this bonding forms a crystalline lattice that makes up bioapatite. This mineral forms the lattice like pre-structure of the tooth enamel, eggshells, and other hard body parts. Once the bone or tooth enamel is formed  the isotopic composition is frozen in place and can be preserved for millions of years.

Using bioapitite may be the first indirect measurement of temperature used to compare different animal’s temperatures at the time the bone was formed. It will not tell the life history of the creature, so many mysteries still remain locked in the fossil remains of these ancient giants.

Resources

Excerpts courtesy of  http://bit.ly/d0kRbI

Excerpts courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_13

Excerpts courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_18

Image courtesy of  cst.cmich.edu/zoogems/bone-jawAss.JPG

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: