A University of Washington professor uses micro-computed tomography to create a 3D fish archive. He plans to digitize more than 25,000 species of aquatic creatures.
The project started in the autumn of 2015 when the Harbor Laboratories from San Juan Island received a small computed tomography. The professor intends to offer researchers a full view on the morphology of the various fish species in the world.
In the last months, professor Adam Summers digitized over 500 types of fish from museum collections in different places on Earth. He wants to offer access to other scientists to complete the database. Moreover, everyone will have open access to the database.
The professor had collaborated with Pixar on movies like “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory”. In November, he managed to get the $340,000 needed to buy the CT scanner which he now uses to create 3D pictures of fish.
Each image goes on the Open Science Framework, where other researchers can access the images and use the information.
In time, the professor developed new techniques which helped him scan multiple specimens for his 3D fish archive.
“Instead of having to cut them open, I can visualize the skeletons. There are lots of questions that can be answered just by looking at their skeletons,” said Malorie Hayes, a graduate student at that is working with Summers.
One scan typically cost between $500 and $2,000, and Summers remembers how he, as a student, bribed a hospital technician to scan stingrays. His question at that time was how a stingray was able to crush snails and mussels. The scan helped him to discover the mineralized tissue in the cartilage.
From there, he went on to questions related to the structure of a wing, or the overlapping armored fish. In the end, the professor managed to bring the scanner to Friday Harbor, north of Seattle, where he is associate director. Summers is also known for his fish photographs, which are displayed at the Seattle Aquarium.
The scanner can only cover objects up to one foot long, which means that Summers will be able to digitize half the population of fish on the Earth. For larger fish, the professor plans to use industrial scanners such as the one from the University of Washington.
Next, the researchers will scan 200 species of African barbs, which are difficult to obtain. Until now, scientists had to destroy the fish in order to observe their skeleton. With the help of the scanner, the structure can be visualized easily.
The scientific community is charmed by the 3D fish archive, especially as all images are offered online for free. Some of the researchers used computer graphics models and others colorized and added explanatory figures to the pictures.
Image Source: Wikipedia