MicroCT and visualisation

Fancied getting my current plans out somewhere other than my notebook, hopefully sharing some useful resources I’ve been working with and keeping this blog up to date with my activities.

At the end of this month I’m going to be scanning some lizard specimens from the Cambridge Zoology Museum and the Natural History Museum assuming all arrangements go to plan.

I’ll be using micro computer topography, which essentially fires thousands of high intensity X-rays through the specimen, taking many thin slice pictures, which can then be stitched together to make a single 3D representation of the specimen. You can see individual slices in the top left and bottom left and right tiles below, with the overall model shown top right!

Working view of 3DSlicer, showing a scan of the Dwarf crocodile, Osteolaemus tetraspis. White areas indicate high density (bone/metal) and green areas show where I’ve highlighted particular bone, in this case in the limbs.

After a little bit of computer wizardry within a free program called 3DSlicer, you can generate fantastic 3D visualisations of the scanned specimens. For an example of this, see the limbs of O. tetraspis below.

Limbs of Osteolaemus tetraspis, complete with some of my working measurements.

These images can be created by anyone at home using 3DSlicer, open-source crocodile CT scan data from CrocBase and a handy guide by paleontologist Peter Falkingham. I’m using them to build up a comparative database of limb bone morphology across a range of quadrupedal and bipedal species to investigate whether things such as limb length ratio can contribute to facultative bipedality (the ability to rise up on two legs from four and move around). Currently, I’m working through some data from CrocBase and Digimorph (both free resources) before collecting primary data at the end of the month.

Hopefully this has given you a little insight into what I’m currently working on. Watch this space for more details about how scanning goes (and hopefully some fancy pictures) next month.

Any scans of any species of lizard or bird are gratefully accepted should you have any available! Limbs are of particular importance.