A virtual world of paleontology
John A. Cunningham, Imran A. Rahman, Stephan Lautenschlager, Emily J. Rayfieldemail, Philip C.J. Donoghueemail
School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK
Trends in Ecology and Evolution Volume 29, Issue 6, p347–357, June 2014
Credit/Crédito: Dr. Stephan Lautenschlager, University of Bristol, UK
•Computer-aided visualization and analysis has revolutionized the study of fossils.
•Fossils can now be characterized in three dimensions and in unprecedented detail.
•The resulting digital reconstructions can be used in rigorous functional analyses.
•Hypotheses regarding the function of extinct organisms can therefore be tested.
Computer-aided visualization and analysis of fossils has revolutionized the study of extinct organisms. Novel techniques allow fossils to be characterized in three dimensions and in unprecedented detail. This has enabled paleontologists to gain important insights into their anatomy, development, and preservation. New protocols allow more objective reconstructions of fossil organisms, including soft tissues, from incomplete remains. The resulting digital reconstructions can be used in functional analyses, rigorously testing long-standing hypotheses regarding the paleobiology of extinct organisms. These approaches are transforming our understanding of long-studied fossil groups, and of the narratives of organismal and ecological evolution that have been built upon them.
paleontology, digital visualization, computed tomography, functional analysis, computer modeling
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