Gorgosaurus on show in the UK for first time

01 July 2014

A 7.3 meter predatory dinosaur that lived over 70 million years ago will go on show in the UK for the first time at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition this week.

Scientists exhibiting at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition will be using state-of-the-art imaging techniques to examine the cracks, fractures and breaks in the bones of this distant relative of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Visitors to the Summer Science Exhibition will be able to play dinosaur CSI, piecing together the life of what seems to have been a very accident-prone Gorgosaurus. Visitors will also be able to take a #dinoselfie with the gruesome creature to share on social media. The dinosaur appears to have survived a brain tumour, broken fibula and a growth inside one of its legs, among other injuries. 

Professor Phil Manning from the University of Manchester and his colleagues will be using data from synchrotron light sources, high-power microtomography and 3D laser imaging to unpick this dinosaur’s biology. The researchers say their ground-breaking work – using synchrotron imaging techniques – could shed new light on the healing processes that took place when the animal was still alive. The scientists are relying on the fact that dinosaur bones occasionally preserve evidence of trauma, sickness and the subsequent signs of healing (pathologies).

Diagnosis of such fossils used to rely on the grizzly inspection of gnarled bones and healed fractures, often entailing slicing through a fossil to reveal its cloying secrets. But the synchrotron-based imaging, which uses light brighter than 10 billion Suns, means the team could tease out the chemical ghosts lurking within the preserved dinosaur bones.

Professor Manning says:

“What’s really interesting is that this massive beast seems to have shrugged-off injuries and diseases that would have proved fatal to humans if not treated. She just kept going. Our team is trying to understand the chemistry that initiated the healing of bones in this Gorgosaurus using a suite of imaging techniques. If we can work out the processes that regulated the healing and repair of injuries in a 70 million year old dinosaur, perhaps we can apply that to 21st Century knowledge to help diagnose, treat and heal humans.”

The fossil of this particular dinosaur was discovered in Montana, USA, and is believed to be one of the most complete ever found. Just 20 Gorgosaurus specimens have ever been found, all in North America. Visitors to the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition will be able to see a fully assembled cast of the fossil and inspect some of the dinosaur’s actual bones.

The X-Appeal exhibit is made up of five interactive station where visitors will be able to see CT scans of different size skulls, compare a real dinosaur bone with a reconstructed bone and weigh their volume against a dinosaur’s, among other things.

The exhibition runs from 1-6 July at the Royal Society in London. The Gorgosaurus will take up permanent residence the Manchester Museum after the Summer Science Exhibition.