Beauty of science: crocs up close


These stunning images, obtained using propagation phase contrast imaging at the ESRF’s ID19 beamline, show a 31-day-old embryo of a Nile crocodile.

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The left panel shows the external morphology of the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus  niloticus) embryo, which was obtained from the Crocodile Farm in Pierrelatte, France, while a semi-transparent view (right) shows the skeletal mineralisation (the embryo measures 1.4 cm across). Crocodiles belong to the group of ancient reptiles, which evolved into an astonishing variety of different forms – the most interesting morphological transition being the emergence of feathers. “To understand the embryonic life of dinosaurs, we need to understand that of their closest living relatives first,” says Martin Kundrát of Uppsala University in Sweden, who led the research in conjunction with the ESRF’s Paul Tafforeau. “This quantitative knowledge is essential for understanding ancient embryonic development and its bearing on the evolution of bird-like features in dinosaurs.”



This article originally appeared in ESRFnews, December 2012. 

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Top image: Credit: Paul Tafforeau/ESRF.