Plateosaurus update: a 3D puzzle for experts!



Overview of the prepared bones. The skull is a cast. (photo: Thierry Hubin - RBINS)
Plateosaurus update: a 3D puzzle for experts!
post by
Jonas Van Boxel

Our technicians are making great progress on the preparation of our very own Plateosaurus skeleton. Since the arrival the extraordinary specimen in May, one third of the bones have been prepared for display. But the hardest part is yet to come:  putting all those little pieces together!

The incredible specimen came to us from the Frick quarry in Switzerland in May of this year. The large herbivore will be exhibited in our Dinosaur Gallery, but the approximately 200 fossilised bones have to be carefully extracted from their protective shell of sediment and plaster first. Casts of missing bones are made to complete the skeleton. After that, all those little bone fragments are assembled on a custom-made metal frame: a 3D-puzzle for experts!

“So far, we have uncovered about one third of the bones that came to us in four boxes”, says technician Aldo Impens. “There are amazingly well-preserved parts, like the impressive hind paw, but a lot of the bones are broken into tiny fragments. The ribs, for example, are just a big collection of ‘slices’ that we have to reconstruct: it is like cutting a carrot and having to put the pieces back together, in the right order.” 

Our skeleton is about 6.5 meters in size. The Plateosaurus is one of the biggest dinosaurs to have lived in the Triassic period, 252 to 201 million years ago. It was also one of the first “long necks”. This herbivore dinosaur belonged to the family of the prosauropods, the precursors of sauropods such as Diplodocus.

The Plateosaurus will be ready for visitors next year. But for palaeontology enthusiasts that cannot wait until 2017, we have a little treat to pass the time: take a virtual look in our palaeontology lab with Google Street View. Or, to get the full experience: with a Google Cardboard and the educational Google Expeditions app*, you can visit the lab in virtual reality!

*In the app search for 'Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences'

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