But the skeleton was too small and delicate and the rocks around it too hard to enable scientists to fully study the anatomy. Moreover, the rock matrix in which the bones are preserved contained trapped minerals which made it impossible to use traditional CT-scanners.
"There's still a lot we don't know about early plant-eating dinosaurs," said Jonah Choiniere, professor at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.
"We need new specimens like this one and new technology like the ESRF synchrotron to fill in those gaps," he said.
Generating X-rays 100 billion times brighter than those used in hospitals, the ESRF beamlines enhanced the contrast between the fossil and the rocks reconstructing the dinosaur' skeleton in incredible detail.
After five days of scanning, Choiniere and ESRF paleontologist Vincent Fernandez, were able to literally see inside the skull.
"Right away when we open these images we can tell quite a few things about the skull. One of the things is that it's likely a juvenile as the bones aren't strongly sutured together," Choiniere said.
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"On the first scans we can see the openings in the skull, which are for the balance organs. We can digitally reconstruct the balance organs of the animal and tell how it held its head and how it interacted with its environment," he added.
The scans will also help understand more about the H. tucki's peculiar mixture of teeth and how the animal ate.
Scientists believe the dinosaur used its back teeth to grind down plant food; the big canines in the front could have been used to dig up plant roots or for display in fights.
"This is the first time we have a complete jaw and we can actually test some speculations," Choiniere said.
The researchers also hope to produce a 3-D reconstruction of the animal's brain to understand whether it was capable of complex behaviors.
"That's the sort of data you just can't get by looking at a skull in 2-D. So it's very exciting," Choiniere said.
"Now that we have digitally removed the rock from the bones we can attach virtual muscles to the skeleton. We can learn how the animal moved around, if it was always on two legs, or sometimes moved on four legs," he added. SEE PHOTOS BELOW: