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Trends Ecol Evol. 2014 Jun;29(6):347-57. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.04.004. Epub 2014 May 10.

A virtual world of paleontology.

Author information

1
School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK.
2
School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK. Electronic address: e.rayfield@bristol.ac.uk.
3
School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK. Electronic address: phil.donoghue@bristol.ac.uk.

Abstract

Computer-aided visualization and analysis of fossils has revolutionized the study of extinct organisms. Novel techniques allow fossils to be characterized in three dimensions and in unprecedented detail. This has enabled paleontologists to gain important insights into their anatomy, development, and preservation. New protocols allow more objective reconstructions of fossil organisms, including soft tissues, from incomplete remains. The resulting digital reconstructions can be used in functional analyses, rigorously testing long-standing hypotheses regarding the paleobiology of extinct organisms. These approaches are transforming our understanding of long-studied fossil groups, and of the narratives of organismal and ecological evolution that have been built upon them.

KEYWORDS:

computed tomography; computer modeling; digital visualization; functional analysis; paleontology

PMID:
24821516
DOI:
10.1016/j.tree.2014.04.004
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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