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Andrew Alden

Fossils in 3D

By August 23, 2013

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A group of British institutions has just opened 3d-fossils.ac.uk, where a growing collection of British type-specimen fossils is on display. These are not ordinary fossils, but the individual specimens that were chosen to permanently represent their species when they were first formally described in the literature. Whenever there's a question about the identity of a fossil, the original type specimen provides the answer.

Researchers will use the stereo images and 3D models to save themselves a trip to a museum. And the rest of us can enjoy the photos and models for what they are—and even use a 3D printer to make copies, which would then be your own personal plastotypes. In fact, if you're in the U.K. there's a contest starting: a nationwide treasure hunt in which you spot the 3D printed copies displayed in 18 different fossil museums. There will be 90 winners of "a VIP museum tour, or something similar," and for the grand prize, "one overall winner will also receive a tablet computer pre-loaded with a collection of virtual fossils."

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