Paleontology and physics have collided at the University of Saskatchewan’s Canadian Light Source.
Paleontologist Tim Tokaryk and physicist Mauricio Barbi are using the CLS Synchrotron to examine chemicals in dinosaur bones in the pursuit of determining the type of environment these dinosaurs lived in.
One of few groups in the world conducting this research, Barbi and Tokaryk, are also both University of Regina professors.
“We’re trying to understand the chemistry in the bones,” said Barbi. “If we can understand that we might be able to tell about the regional contents of the bone. We can travel back in time and reconstruct the environment.”
Using intensely focused light, the Synchrotron probes the inside of atoms within dinosaur fossils, allowing Barbi and Tokaryk to pinpoint minerals like calcium, iron and manganese in the bone structure. This provides insight into dinosaurs’ diets.
“By looking at the bones, you can tell their diets. If we can identify some patterns with what they eat, we can view their relationship with their environment,” he added.
Everything from triceratops to duck-billed dinosaur fossils — discovered across Saskatchewan and Alberta — will be probed by Barbi and Tokaryk.
“What you eat is what you have in your bone. If you’re moving through India and you eating there, your bone contents will start to look different. You’re going to eat different food and minerals.”
Tokaryk, one of the paleontologists responsible for helping discover the famed “Scotty” tyrannosaurus rex skeleton near Eastend in 1994, is excited for the CLS research at the CLS.
“We’re able to understand at the atomic level what these things were living in various periods throughout time. We’re extremely fortunate to have this wonderful toy in our backyard,” he said.