Palaeontologists identify dinosaur species using AI analysis of teeth

An international team of palaeontologists has used a new AI method to study the diversity of dinosaur species in a well-known fossil-rich area of Morocco. By identifying isolated teeth, they discovered a species not previously found in the area. The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) announced this in a press release on Tuesday.

The research involved palaeontologists from institutions including VUB, Utrecht University and the Natural History Museum in London. They conducted their work in the Kem Kem, a fossil-rich site from the early Cretaceous period - about 100 million years ago - on the border between Morocco and Algeria. It is one of the few relatively complete fluvial ecosystems from this period.

Mystery teeth

In the Kem Kem, teeth of iconic carnivorous dinosaurs such as the Carcharodontosaurus and Spinosaurus from the Jurassic eras have been found. In addition to these easily recognisable teeth, several "mystery teeth" were also analysed. These had been in a museum collection for decades. Now, thanks to the new technology, they have been identified.

"We often have to guess which dinosaur left these teeth behind"

"Fossil remains in deposits often consist only of teeth," says Femke Holwerda of Utrecht University. "Very little else remains of the animals, so we often have to guess which dinosaur left these teeth behind."

Machine learning

By combining traditional techniques with machine learning - where computers learn from data and gain experience without being explicitly programmed - the researchers were able to reveal a species that had not previously been found in the Kem Kem.

"We discovered that two mysterious tooth morphotypes did not belong to raptor-like dinosaurs, but to Abelisauridae and a group called Noasauridae, which are very rare in Morocco," said Simon Wills from the Natural History Museum. These are distant relatives of the Tyrannosaurus rex.


Tyrannosaurid theropod dinosaur skull at the Natural History Museum in London © ALBUM ARCHIVO

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