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Imaging Fossils And Fish For Science’s Sake

October 13, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Musculoskeletal Radiology
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Thanks to CT, we now know that we humans are distantly related to Labidolemur kayi, a 55 million-year-old extinct North American mammal that also shares a common ancestor with rodents, rabbits, flying lemurs, and tree shrews.

Scientists have argued about the evolutionary relationships of L. kayi and other members of its biological family, known as Apatemyidae, because they’re so weird. They have upper front teeth shaped like can openers and two unusually long fingers. L. kayi, which stood less than a foot tall and resembled a squirrel, apparently used the teeth to tap on trees to locate insects. So we all have a distant ancestor that resembled a cross between a squirrel and a woodpecker.

University of Florida researchers resolved the relationship controversy by using CT to study tiny details of well-preserved skulls. Their results were published this week in the online edition of the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Mary T. Silcox, PhD, the study’s lead author, was quoted in a University of Florida news release as saying, “It’s not like medical CT. It’s actually an industrial CT scanner. Because this is a small animal, we needed to be able to study it at a very high resolution.”

Plus, with a subject that’s been dead for millions of years, you don’t have to worry about the radiation dose.

In other odd imaging news: For the third straight year, students from the radiologic science program at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls helped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by X-raying approximately 650 juvenile sucker fish from the Upper Klamath Lake, using digital mammography equipment.

According to an institute news release, one of the three species of sucker fish in the lake is endangered. In order to tell the species apart, Fish and Wildlife biologists have to count the vertebrae. Hence, the X-rays. It’s a nice service for the students to perform. But let’s hope they did it after regular mammography hours.

Related seminar: Neuro & Musculoskeletal Imaging

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