How are CT scanners used to study fossils?

CT scan of Arundelconodon jaw. The computer image combines many separate images taken as the scanner focussed downward through the jaw.

CT scan of the Arundelconodon jaw. Click to zoom. Image courtesy of DigiMorph.org.

CT scan of the skull of the turtle Arundelemys.

CT scan of the skull of the turtle Arundelemys. Click to zoom. Image courtesy of DigiMorph.org.

Industrial, high Resolution X-ray CT scanners can be used to create detailed 3-D images of fossils. The scanners operate similarly to the medical CT scanners found in hospitals, but generate a more intense X-ray bombardment that is capable of penetrating the fossils. The X-ray "slices" through the fossils, allowing scientists to view and study them from the inside. Two Cretaceous fossils from the Maryland have been scanned at the Digital Morphology facility at the University of Texas at Austin.


Visit the DigiMorph website to view high resolution CT scans of the turtle skull, including rotating 3 dimensional images.

Visit the DigiMorph website to view high resolution CT scans of the mammal jaw.

View a video story from the National Science Foundation to learn more about the DigiMorph scanning process.