Curriculum and Education Article

Evolution: Education and Outreach

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 635-641

First online:

Virtual Fossils: a New Resource for Science Communication in Paleontology

  • Imran A. RahmanAffiliated withSchool of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol Email author 
  • , Keith AdcockAffiliated withJewellery Industry Innovation Centre, Birmingham City University
  • , Russell J. GarwoodAffiliated withSchools of Materials and Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester


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.


Paleontology Public engagement Virtual fossils Computed tomography 3-D printing VAXML