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3-D digital dinosaur track download: A roadmap for saving at-risk natural history resources
Date:2/11/2011

Portable laser scanning technology allows researchers to tote their latest fossil discovery from the field to the lab in the form of lightweight digital data stored on a laptop. But sharing that data as a 3D model with others requires standard formats that are currently lacking, say paleontologists at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

The SMU researchers used portable laser scanning technology to capture field data of a huge 110 million-year-old Texas dinosaur track and then create to scale an exact 3D facsimile. They share their protocol and findings with the public as well as their downloadable 145-megabyte model in the online scientific journal Palaeontologia Electronica.

The model duplicates an actual dinosaur footprint fossil that is slowly being destroyed by weathering because it's on permanent outdoor display, says SMU paleontologist Thomas L. Adams, lead author of the scientific article. The researchers describe in the paper how they created the digital model and discuss the implications for digital archiving and preservation.

"This paper demonstrates the feasibility of using portable 3D laser scanners to capture field data and create high-resolution, interactive 3D models of at-risk natural history resources," write the authors.

"3D digitizing technology provides a high-fidelity, low-cost means of producing facsimiles that can be used in a variety of ways," they say, adding that the data can be stored in online museums for distribution to researchers, educators and the public.

SMU paleontologist Louis L. Jacobs is one of the coauthors on the article.

"The protocol for distance scanning presented in this paper is a roadmap for establishing a virtual museum of fossil specimens from inaccessible corners across the globe," Jacobs said.

Paleontologists propose the term "digitype" for digital models

Scientists increasingly are using computed tomography and 3D laser sc
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Contact: Margaret Allen
mallen@smu.edu
214-768-7664
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert  

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