The goal was to produce 3D models of the skull, forelimb and cervical vertebrae of theropod dinosaur specimens housed across North American museums.
Whilst providing training for the Artec Leo, we 3D scanned a Thylacine skeleton (accession number LDUCZ-Z89). In doing so, the museum went on to use this 3D scan to produce a 3D model of the Thylacine as well.
This Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) has been at the Grant Museum since 1828. It belonged to Professor Robert Grant and has been used in teaching, research and exhibitions for nearly 200 years.
Thylacine specimens are incredibly precious as the species was driven to extinction in 1936. The Grant Museum has several thylacine specimens, but this is their only complete skeleton.
The skeleton structure was too large and fragile to be transported for scanning off-site. Therefore, Central Scanning provided on-site training for the UCL Centre for Integrative Anatomy and Grant Museum staff. We used the Artec Leo 3D scanner to scan the Thylacine skeleton and Artec Studio software to process the CAD data.
Central Scanning also helped to 3D scan various mounted specimens on display in the museums. This posed quite a challenge as they were often large and involved climbing on various ladders which made scanning certain parts of the specimens difficult.
A 3D model of the complete skeleton was printed by B:Made at UCL Bartlett School of Architecture. The model is sized at just below 1/3 scale. It will be used for teaching, research and exhibition instead of the irreplaceable original specimen.
(3D scan of the Thylacine skeleton)
The Grant Museum also 3D printed a separate full-scale model of the skull. The skull model will be used in teaching too but is currently in the Objects of the Misanthropocene exhibition in the UCL Octagon Gallery.
The exhibition imagines that curators of the future have sent objects back to us through time. It explores possible dystopian futures, including one where species exist only as 3D models after the original bones have crumbled away.
This 3D scanning case study is one of many preservation projects that Central Scanning have done for museums over the years.
(Thylacine skeleton vs. the 3D model.)
Using 3D scanning for academic research
One of the researchers in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at UCL, Ryan Marek, is currently researching the evolution of the neck in birds and dinosaurs, and its correlated evolution with head and forelimb size.
An important part of this research is including key fossil species. With this in mind, he took the scanner to museums in Washington, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City to scan many species of theropod dinosaur ranging in size from Coelophysis to T. rex.
The work involved scanning both entire mounted dinosaur skeletons as well as individual skeletal fossil elements across multiple North American museums. Ryan scanned a total of 35 specimens (137 individual elements) and generated over 450 GB of data.
“I was extremely impressed with the speed at which the Leo was able to scan specimens, especially mounted specimens. I could scan the front end of an enormous T. rex in under an hour.”
He is currently working on generating 3D models of these scans so that they can be incorporated into their 3D geometric morphometrics workflow. With these, Ryan will analyse the shape of individual skeletal elements and investigate what factors correlate with variation in the shape of certain bones.