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Scientists invent thermometer that measures body temperature of dinosaurs

June 24, 2011 - Washington

A team of scientists has come up with a thermometer that measures the body temperature of dinosaurs.

Along with colleagues from the US, researchers from the University of Bonn have just determined that the body temperature of some large herbivorous dinosaurs was between 36 and 38 degrees Celsius.

They came to the conclusion after they developed a method that allows determining the absolute body temperature of dinosaurs with the accuracy of a thermometer by analysing their dental enamel.

"The original chemical composition of their dental enamel has been much better preserved than that of dinosaur bones," explained Dr. Thomas Tutken, a biochemist from the Steinmann Institut at the University of Bonn.

Enamel contains a certain percentage of carbonate, a carbon/oxygen compound. Both elements have a heavier and a lighter variant called isotopes.

"The mineral formation temperature determines how frequently the two heavy carbon isotopes (13C) and the two heavy oxygen isotopes (18O) will enter a 13C-18O bond within a dinosaur's tooth," explained the geochemist.

"We used this correlation as a thermometer that allowed us to determine the body temperature accurately to within two degrees," Tutken added.


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