Virtual Fossils: a New Resource for Science Communication in Paleontology Authors
Curriculum and Education Article
First Online: 10 November 2012 DOI:
Cite this article as: Rahman, I.A., Adcock, K. & Garwood, R.J. Evo Edu Outreach (2012) 5: 635. doi:10.1007/s12052-012-0458-2 Abstract
Computer-aided 3-D reconstruction of fossils, or virtual paleontology, is an increasingly common and powerful technique. It is now regularly used for research in paleontology, yet to date has impacted little on public outreach and science communication; however, it is ideally suited for these purposes, being increasingly cheap and available, dynamic and exciting, and applicable to a range of topics. Here, we provide an introduction to the field, and a case study of its use for a public engagement event. The steps involved in creating such an educational resource are outlined, and include computed tomography scanning, digital visualization, and 3-D printing of fossils. We emphasize the value of virtual fossils for science communication; they allow for diverse learning styles in a variety of topics. In the future, we hope that virtual paleontology will become a mainstay of communicating the history of life, thereby promoting accurate understanding of evolution.
Keywords Paleontology Public engagement Virtual fossils Computed tomography 3-D printing VAXML Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:
) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users. 10.1007/s12052-012-0458-2 Supplementary material 12052_2012_458_MOESM1_ESM.zip (9.4 mb) Online Resource 1 Animation of the computer reconstruction of the trigonotarbid arachnid Eophyrynus prestvicii. To view: unzip the .zip file and double-click the unpacked .avi file. (ZIP 9,658 kb) 12052_2012_458_MOESM2_ESM.zip (126.8 mb) Online Resource 2 Computer reconstructions of the fossils incorporated in the virtual paleontology resource described herein. Reconstructions are in VAXML format, compressed in a zip archive. To view: unzip the .zip file, install the SPIERS software suite (program and documentation available from ) and double-click the unpacked .vaxml files. (ZIP 129,841 kb) www.spiers-software.org 12052_2012_458_MOESM3_ESM.zip (82.8 mb) Online Resource 3 Video explaining the virtual paleontology approach outlined in this article. The video was shown during the exhibit of the resource at the Lapworth Museum of Geology, University of Birmingham, UK. To view: unzip the .zip file and double-click the unpacked .avi file. (ZIP 84,747 kb) References
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