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February 9, 2018

CT scan of earless monitor lizard

A computed tomography scan of an earless monitor lizard (Lanthanotus borneensis). A native of Borneo, these lizards are the only living species in their family.

More about this image
A grant by the U.S. National Science Foundation is supporting the launch of a project that will scan 20,000 vertebrates from the Florida Museum of Natural History's collection using computed tomography (CT) scanning and make these data-rich, 3D images available to researchers, educators, students and the public via the internet.

Called the oVert project -- short for openVertebrate, the project will encompass representative specimens from more than 80% of existing vertebrate genera, and a selection of these will also be scanned with contrast-enhancing stains to characterize soft tissues.

CT scanning takes X-rays of a specimen from every angle, creating thousands of snapshots that a computer stitches together into a detailed 3D visual replica. The image can be virtually dissected, layer by layer, to expose cross sections and internal structures. The scans allow scientists to view a specimen inside and out, including its skeleton, muscles, internal organs, parasites and even its stomach contents, without touching a scalpel.

Images scanned for the project will then be housed in MorphoSource, a public database created by Duke University that scientists, educators, students or the curious can mine for 3D data on their species of interest.

[Research supported by NSF grant DBI 1701714.]

To learn more about this project, see the Florida Museum story New project allows web users to explore 3-D vertebrate specimens from inside out. (Date image taken: 2016-2017; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: Dec. 14, 2017)

Credit: Edward Stanley and David Blackburn, Florida Museum of Natural History

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