From clergymen to computers—the advent of virtual palaeontology

  title={From clergymen to computers—the advent of virtual palaeontology},
  author={Russell J. Garwood and Imran A. Rahman and Mark D. Sutton},
  journal={Geology Today},
Palaeontology was established as a science in the Victorian era, yet has roots that stretch deeper into the recesses of history. More than 2000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle deduced that fossil sea shells were once living organisms, and around 500 ad Xenophanes used fossils to argue that many areas of land must have previously been submarine. In 1027, the Persian scholar Avicenna suggested that organisms were fossilized by petrifying fluids; this theory was accepted by most natural… 

Virtual Fossils: a New Resource for Science Communication in Paleontology

It is hoped that virtual paleontology will become a mainstay of communicating the history of life, thereby promoting accurate understanding of evolution and impacting little on public outreach and science communication.

The walking dead: Blender as a tool for paleontologists with a case study on extinct arachnids

The limb articulations of members of the Devonian genus Palaeocharinus are reported on the basis of exceptionally preserved fossils from the Rhynie Cherts of Scotland, and these newly reported articulations are used to create a Blender model to produce as accurate a representation of the trigonotarbid flexing its limbs and walking as possible.

Growth trajectories of some major ammonoid sub-clades revealed by serial grinding tomography data

The growth of chamber and septal volumes through ontogeny and differences in ontogenetic changes between species from each of three major sub-clades of Palaeozoic ammonoids throughout their early phylogeny are documented.

Buoyancy of some Palaeozoic ammonoids and their hydrostatic properties based on empirical 3D‐models

The interpretation of the function of the ammonoid phragmocone as a buoyancy device is now widely accepted among ammonoid researchers. During the 20th century, several theoretical models were

X-ray microtomography as a tool for investigating the petrological context of Precambrian cellular remains

Abstract A wide spectrum of tomographic techniques now exists for studying palaeontological specimens, but the suitability of these methods for assessing Earth's oldest prokaryotic life has not been

Computed tomography of fossils and sulphide minerals from the Mesozoic of Turkey

We present a computed tomography and 3D visualisation of Mesozoic cephalopods from the Taurus Mountains. Study objects were single ammonoids and ammonoid mass-occurrences that were deposited during

Non‐destructive imaging to describe a new species of Obama land planarian (Platyhelminthes, Tricladida)

It is concluded that μCT constitutes a relatively fast, inexpensive non‐destructive method that produces results comparable to those of traditional histology, and is thus amenable for describing flatworm species.

A micro X-ray computed tomography dataset of fossil echinoderms in an ancient obrution bed: a robust method for taphonomic and palaeoecologic analyses

Visualizing the internal features of fossiliferous beds in 3D is an invaluable taphonomic tool for analyzing delicate fossils, accounting for all specimens irrespective of their preservation stages and with minimal damage.



Microanatomy of Early Devonian book lungs

Drawing on comparative studies of extant taxa, explicit characters (trabeculae, spines on the lamellar edge) shared by living and fossil arachnid respiratory organs are identified, which support the hypothesis that book lungs were derived from a single, common, presumably terrestrial, ancestor.

An exceptionally preserved vermiform mollusc from the Silurian of England

A complete vermiform mollusc is described from the Herefordshire Lagerstätte, which is interpreted as a plated aplacophoran, and Serial grinding at intervals of tens of micrometres, combined with computer-based reconstruction methods, renders the fossils in the round.

Silurian brachiopods with soft-tissue preservation

A stem-group rhynchonelliformean specimen from the Silurian Herefordshire Konservat-Lagerstätte yields exceptionally preserved three-dimensional fossils that provide unrivalled insights into the palaeobiology of a variety of invertebrates; it most probably belongs in the order Orthida.

Fossilized soft tissues in a Silurian platyceratid gastropod

A Silurian platyceratid gastropod from the Herefordshire Lagerstätte that preserves the oldest soft tissues yet reported from an undoubted crown-group mollusc is described, providing support for an attached mode of life, and suggestive of a coprophagous feeding strategy.

A new phyllocarid (Crustacea: Malacostraca) from the Silurian Fossil–Lagerstätte of Herefordshire, UK

Cinerocaris magnifica provides critical evidence of the limb morphology of an early malacostracan, which will be important in understanding crustacean evolution.

X-ray micro-tomography of Carboniferous stem-Dictyoptera: new insights into early insects

Computer reconstructions of Archimylacris eggintoni, a Carboniferous stem-group dictyopteran (‘roachoid’), are presented, revealing a high degree of specialization, and provides insights into the mode of life of these common Palaeozoic insects.

High-fidelity X-ray micro-tomography reconstruction of siderite-hosted Carboniferous arachnids

Late Carboniferous trigonotarbids from Coseley, UK, were chosen to assess the potential of high-resolution X-ray micro-tomography (XMT) and three-dimensional computer reconstruction visualizes the animals at 20 µm or better resolution, resolving subtle and previously unseen details.

The arthropod Offacolus kingi (Chelicerata) from the Silurian of Herefordshire, England: computer based morphological reconstructions and phylogenetic affinities

The small, non–biomineralized, three–dimensionally preserved arthropod Offacolus kingi Orr et al. is re–evaluated, and the new family Offacolidae erected, placing it basally within the Chelicerata, but more derived than the Devonian Weinbergina.

Tomographic techniques for the study of exceptionally preserved fossils

  • M. Sutton
  • Physics
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2008
Tomographic data can be visualized in several ways, the most effective of which is the production of isosurface-based ‘virtual fossils’ that can be manipulated and dissected interactively.