Paleontologists from South Africa have made a digital reconstruction of a dinosaur’s skull, which is 200 million years old. The digital reconstruction will help dinosaur enthusiasts everywhere to create 3D prints of the dinosaur fossil at home.

Digitally Reconstructing A Massospondylus Skull

A team of researchers from South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand used CT scans to look inside the skull of a Massospondylus. They were able to recreate every bone of the dinosaur’s cranium and also observe the tiny characteristics such as the inner ear’s balance organs and nerves exiting the brain.

"This means any researcher or member of the public can print their own Massospondylus skull at home," said researcher Kimi Chapelle, who is a PhD student at Witwatersrand. "I was amazed when I started digitally reconstructing Massospondylus' skull and found all these features that had never been described.”

The Massospondylus From South Africa

The massospondylus is one of the most well-known dinosaurs from South Africa and its fossils have been discovered in many places in the nation, including the Golden Gate National Park. The fossils range in size from hatchlings to adults.

The species was a longer-necked sauropodomorph that lived during the early Jurassic Period. Famed anatomist and explorer Sir Richard Owen discovered it in 1854.

Researchers, however, have never before conducted an anatomical investigation of the massospondylus’ skull in depth. Most of the earlier studies were based on the eggs and the spine of the massospondylus.

Chapelle added that paleontologists still have a lot to know about the dinosaurs of South Africa. Researchers can also try and understand features such as how the massospondylus held their heads or moved by comparing their inner ears with that of other dinosaurs, she explained.

The digital reconstruction also enabled the research team to see the tiny replacement teeth in the jaw bones, which indicated that the species replaced its teeth continuously like crocodiles.

The digitally reconstructed fossil also shows that it was not fully grown because the braincase bones are not fully fused. The fossil of a young massospondylus also enabled the scientists to gain more insight into how it grew, how quickly it could grow, and also how huge it could become.

Study coauthor and supervisor Jonah Choiniere added that students such as Chapelle have been able to use the university’s CT facility to create cutting-edge research that is changing the process in which scientists conduct research about dinosaurs.

The researchers published their study in the journal PeerJ on Jan. 12. Enthusiasts can download a surface file of the skull to create a 3D print.

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