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Bird X-rays could be the secret to understanding dinosaur tracks

An X-ray video of a modern bird foot could help scientists better understand dinosaur tracks from more than 250 million years ago.

The tracks of Corvipes lacertoideus, a dinosaur roughly the size of a chicken, contain marks that scientists believe were left when the dinosaur picked up its feet. But without X-rays, they couldn't fully explain the features, Live Science reports.

The new video marks "the first time anyone has been able to see a footprint being formed," study author Peter Falkingham, of the University of London's Royal Veterinary College, told Live Science. Falkingham and his colleagues created X-ray videos of a guineafowl, a relative of chickens and a descendant of dinosaurs, walking over a bed of poppy seeds, and then used those X-rays to create computer simulations. Falkingham and his colleagues then compared the simulations with the Corvipes tracks to see how the dinosaur tracks' odd features formed.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help paleontologists better understand how dinosaurs walked. Live Science reports that the researchers' next step will be to "search for hints to evolution in tracks, looking for alterations in motion as dinosaur bodies changed."