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Part of the Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries exhibition.
No, your eyes aren't playing tricks. This Apatosaurus louisae is steel and fiberglass, not 150-million-year-old bone. Yet it isn't a sculpture, or even an exact copy of an ancient skeleton. Rather, it is a three-dimensional version of a digital Apatosaurus created by a software program. Computer simulations based on painstaking measurements of real fossils were used to predict the pose of the animal--head slightly lowered, tail slightly raised. This particular animal is not quite fully grown.
Scientists use computer models, based on the shape of the animal's bones and how they fit together, to predict its range of motion.
It is hard to get these answers from real fossil bones, which are often incomplete or deformed and can weigh hundreds of pounds each. Moving them takes heavy equipment, not a computer mouse!
Scientists tested the validity of their computer model by modeling the vertebrae of living animals, including the giraffe. The simulated giraffe neck moved just like the real thing, giving researchers confidence in results based on the bones of extinct animals.