Is it Authentic? The Analysis Begins

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Without further ado, Mark and Mick began their work. For fourteen hours a day, for a whole week, they toiled in the basement of the Geological Museum of China. While Mark identified characters on one slab, Mick photographed the other slab to document the specimen. They were on an emotional rollercoaster, one minute amazed with such a remarkable specimen, and the next minute disappointed that it was split in two.

In order to determine the specimen's authenticity, Mark needed to look at it closely. Did anything look wrong? Were the two slabs mirror images? Did all of the specimen's characters match up? After a close examination, without even using a microscope, Mark determined that Dave was an authentic dinosaur specimen because everything matched up.

Mark then looked more closely at Dave's feathers to determine their authenticity. He put Dave under a standard dissecting microscope and looked for stains of feathers. As feathers fossilize, they stain the rock, without looking carved or painted. Nothing unusual turned up, which was a good sign. Then Mark did one last check -- he thought he might be able to see the feathers' micro fibers. When Mark saw the subtle structures of the feathers, which are impossible to recreate, he knew he had an authentic and priceless feathered specimen on his hands.

Then the real fun began -- the systematic study of the characteristics that would tell Mark what species Dave belongs to. Mark had a hunch that it might be a new taxon (a new group of organisms), but had to run through an extensive checklist before he would know for sure.

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