BOZEMAN, Mont., June 11 (UPI) -- U.S. paleontologists who search for dinosaur fossils in Eastern Montana can now chemically analyze fossils on site the same day they're excavated.
A consortium of Montana State University, North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences recently bought and renovated a mobile laboratory to aid in such research.
The laboratory, originally built by the U.S. Army for Superfund site work, will be the first analytical molecular paleontology facility dedicated to doing analysis on site, said Mary Higby Schweitzer, a North Carolina paleontologist who obtained the lab with Jack Horner, curator of paleontology at MSU's Museum of the Rockies.
Schweitzer's hypothesis is that fossils can stay deep in the ground for 68 million years and, because they are in equilibrium with their sandstone environment, they can remain in nearly their original state with soft tissues preserved. But degradation begins as soon as the fossils are removed from the ground.
Nearly half of the semi-truck contains a clean laboratory, while the rest of the truck contains microscopes, work stations and a computer. The vehicle provides its own electricity, air conditioning and heating.
"It's fun. It's cool. It's the first of its kind," Schweitzer said.