A Maryland firm has been charged with trying to help researchers unravel the mystery of a 150 million-year-old dinosaur egg found in Utah last fall.
The ancient specimen was found in September in a central Utah dinosaur quarry by Brigham Young University paleontologist Dee Hall.
It is believed to be "the best, most complete egg found for the whole Jurassic period," which began about 160 million years ago, said Wade Miller, chairman of BYU's geology department.
The egg, about 4 inches long and as big as a clenched fist, has been tentatively identified as that of an allosaurus, a meat-eating dinosaur about 20 feet tall, which lived during the Jurassic Period.
Columbia Scientific Inc., a company that makes computer software for medical scanners, has been recruited by Utah's American Fork Hospital to make a three-dimensional image of the inside of the petrified egg.
So far, CAT scans conducted at the hospital reveal a three-quarter-inch-long "polliwog" shape outline believed to be an embryo in the egg, said Miller.
However, since the CAT scan can produce only two-dimensionsal images, Miller and his colleagues hired Columbia Scientific to turn the CAT scan slices into a three-dimensional image.
"We have software that stacks up the slices from CAT scan images and builds them into a three-dimensional picture," said Charles Stockham, physicist and vice president of Columbia Scientific.
The software is commonly used by surgeons who need three-dimensional images of internal structures of the human body, Stockham said, adding that the dinosaur egg will be a first.
Because of fossilization, the egg and embryo consist almost entirely of stone, the organic materials having been replaced by minerals from soil and groundwater.
"If it is an embryo, and we think it is, it could really help us understand more about dinosaurs and maybe how some of them died," said Miller.