Researchers recently discovered the fossilized remains of a lower jaw of a mouse-sized mammal on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. The fossil dates back to the Middle Jurassic and belongs to a species of mammal called Palaeoxonodon ooliticus, known as an important species for understanding the evolution of molar teeth in modern mammals. Instead of spending many hours of delicate work physically extracting the fossil from the rock , the researchers used high resolution x-ray CT scanning to generate a detailed three-dimensional model of the fossil. This new method is called “virtual paleontology.”
The fossil was scanned using micro-computed tomography (µCT), and the resulting scans were saved as a 3D computer file. Using specialized software the data can be presented as a 3D reconstruction (pictured here), exported to a 3D printer for further analysis or shared with other paleontologists.
Roger Close, PhD., School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK