Torsten Scheyer has examined the dinosaurs' armour as part of his diploma thesis. The results are astonishing: 'The armour plating is not nearly as similar to those of the crocodile as was previously assumed,' he adds. 'Their microstructure is substantially more complex, at least in some types of ankylosaurus.'
A complete set of dinosaur chain mail was composed of hundreds of thousands of bony armour plates known as osteoderms. Most of these were smaller than a European one-cent coin, but some also had a diameter of several dozen centimetres and ended in long points. 'Unlike tortoise shells, the individual plates lay next to each other. They were not fused together,' the PhD student Torsten Scheyer explains. This kind of armour was flexible and could thus not break so easily under pressure. Although modern crocodiles have a similar kind of armour, the individual plates have a much simpler structure.
By using a polarisation microscope Torsten Scheyer discovered that collagen fibres were interwoven in the bone calcium of the dinosaur's armour plating, forming mats which were interspersed with each other three-dimensionally. Within each mat the fibres were aligned parallel to one another, with the fibres at right angles to the layer above and below them. 'The armour was thereby endowed with great strength in all directions,' Torsten Scheyer stresses. Today's composite materials are based on the same principle, which are used to make the rotor blades for wind farms or bullet-proof vests except that in these cases the collagen mats are
Contact: Torsten Scheyer
University of Bonn