RESOURCES: Skull Central

Science  23 Feb 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5508, pp. 1453
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5508.1453d

How do you peer inside an egg without breaking it? One way is with high-resolution x-ray computed tomography, which allows researchers to probe both soft and hard tissue, then assemble flat x-ray pictures into a 3D image.

The Digital Morphology Group at the University of Texas, Austin, overseen by paleontologist Tim Rowe, has built a recently expanded online library of the skeletons of both modern and fossil vertebrates. (So far, one invertebrate—a coral—is included.) On display are the skulls of 37 species, including mammals, turtles, lizards, dinosaurs, and birds. This image, assembled from 279 x-ray slices, reveals an emu embryo inside its shell. Also available is an online anatomical tutorial to Thrinaxodon, a 245-million-year-old creature that is transitional between mammals and their ancestors. Each skull can viewed in QuickTime movies that show it spinning on different axes. Most of the skeletons include slice-by-slice black-and-white movies. It's only the beginning; the site will double within 2 years.

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