Micro-CT in Paleontology: Imaging Fossils, Prehistoric Teeth and Bones
An overview of how micro-CT (3D X-ray imaging) can be used in paleontology, to study the internal micro-structure of bones, teeth, fossils and more.Follow @blue_scientific
What is Micro-CT?
Micro-CT is a non-destructive 3D imaging and analysis technique. It can be used to examine the internal structure of a huge variety of samples, including these in paleontology:
- Rocks and geological samples
- Archeological artefacts
- Teeth and dental samples
- Prehistoric insects preserved in amber / resin
Micro-CT (micro computed tomography) is 3D X-ray imaging, using the same method as hospital CT scans, but on a smaller scale with dramatically increased resolution. The results represent 3D microscopy, revealing the internal structures of objects at a very fine scale.
When X-rays pass through an object, the intensity is reduced by absorption proportional to the average atomic number along the trajectory. By taking projection images at multiple rotation angles, the full 3D information can be acquired slice by slice. Computed tomography reconstructs the entire 3D volume.
Micro-CT is a non-destructive technique, with no sample preparation, staining or thin slicing. This makes it ideal for prehistoric artefacts, as you can examine the internal micro-structure in 3D, without damaging or altering the sample itself.
Bruker SkyScan 1273
The Bruker SkyScan 1273 can accommodate large and heavy samples, making it ideal for paleontology. You can study whole bones and fossils, and even whole prehistoric human skulls.
- Sample size: Up to 300mm wide and 500mm high
- Weight: Up to 20kg
- Field of view: 250mm in diameter and 250mm high
Scanning samples of this size would typically require a large floor-standing system. However the SkyScan 1273 is a benchtop instrument that requires only a standard domestic power plug – no extra compressor, water supply or chiller. This also keeps running costs down.
Scan Whole Skulls
Due to its capacity for large samples, the SkyScan 1273 can scan whole skulls of any human, including prehistoric Neanderthal skulls:
You can view and analyse the internal microstructure of teeth, mandibles and all kinds of dental samples from humans, dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures.
Insects in Amber/Resin
Take virtual flights around and through your sample, as well as virtual cuts and slices. The image below is a still from a video of a 30 million year old spider preserved in amber. Contact us if you’d like to see the whole video.
Take a look at these papers for examples of how microtomography has been used by other researchers and institutes:
- Paleo-dentistry: Pulp pathosis in inlayed teeth of the ancient Mayas
- Dental: Use of Micro-Computed Tomography for Dental Studies in Modern and Fossil Odontocetes
- Fossil embryos: Quantitative analysis of cellular and sub-cellular structures of fossil animal embryos
- Fossilised invertebrates: Studying of fossil invertebrates for example brachiopods by using of the X-ray micro-CT Skyscan 1172
- Palaeoanthropology: Fossil microstructure: the potential of micro CT to the study of human evolution
- Paleo-oceanography: X-ray phase contrast imaging and 3D reconstruction of chemical alteration in plankton shells – a key indicator of past climate
If you’d like to see more examples please get in touch – we have lots more available!
Blue Scientific is the official distributor of Bruker Micro-CT in the Nordic region. We’re available to provide quotes and answer all your questions – just get in touch: