To get a detailed look at great ape musculoskeletal anatomy, the research team combined high-resolution computed tomography with computer-assisted virtual dissection. Great ape bodies are a scarce and valuable resource for scientific studies, and anthropologists are increasingly reluctant to sacrifice them for anatomical dissections. Virtual autopsy or Virtopsy is the method of choice. Virtopsy was pioneered by Michael Thali (Institute of Forensic Science, UZH), and is now used in forensic institutes worldwide. Anthropological virtopsy has enormous potential, as it permits virtual dissection of one single specimen by many different researchers, and according to many different criteria, without actually deteriorating the orginal body. Moreover, great ape virtopsy gives an immediate picture of the spatial relationships between soft and hard tissues (bones) of one and the same individual. Traditionally, bone morphology was studied on dry-skeleton specimens, and subsequently combined with muscle data obtained from dissections of other animals.
Acquiring 3D tomographic data of great ape bodies, however, is a complex endeavor, which requires collaboration across disciplines. To reach these goals, the Visible Ape Consortium was established, which has become an example of efficient transdisciplinary research at UZH (see below).
|Contact: Naoki Morimoto|
University of Zurich