Forensic palaeontology

The Archaeoraptor forgery

Abstract

The Archaeoraptor fossil was announced as a 'missing link' and purported to be possibly the best evidence since Archaeopteryx that birds did, in fact, evolve from certain types of carnivorous dinosaur1. It reportedly came from Early Cretaceous beds of China that have produced other spectacular fossils transitional between birds and extinct non-avian dinosaurs2,3. But Archaeoraptor was revealed to be a forgery in which bones of a primitive bird and a non-flying dromaeosaurid dinosaur had been combined4,5,6. Here we use high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (CT)7 to determine the nature and extent of the forgery, as well as how it was built, by imaging the fracture pattern and distribution of materials through the entire specimen.

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Figure 1: Two computer-generated models of the face of the Archaeoraptor slab as it was presented for computed tomography (CT) scanning on 29 July 1999.

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Correspondence to Timothy Rowe.

Supplementary information

Supplementary information

High resolution CT analysis of the Archaeoraptor forgery, including 4 figures and legends.

Animation 1

Quicktime movie of consecutive high-resolution X-ray CT slices of the Archaeoraptor slab, as it was present for scanning on July 29, 1999. This is the original CT slice plane. The imagery is depicted in shades of gray, to resemble conventional X-radiograms. The densest materials in the slab, which are bone and metallic inclusions in the grout, are depicted in white pixels; air is depicted in black. An approximately linear scale links pixel value with relative density.

Animation 2

Quicktime movie of Archaeoraptor slab, sliced in planes parallel to the slab surface. For this animation, a digital volumetric model of the entire slab was made from the original slice data (animation 1), and then re-sliced at an orthogonal axis. The last frames of the backing slab were deleted to facilitate Web delivery.

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Rowe, T., Ketcham, R., Denison, C. et al. The Archaeoraptor forgery. Nature 410, 539–540 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/35069145

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