Museum Creates Free Online 3D Scans of 13,000 Vertebrates

The dissection industry just took a major hit.

The Florida Museum of Natural History’s openVertebrate (or oVert) project has collected over 13,000 3D scans of vertebrates. They are now offering unprecedented access to internal animal biology.

oVert will source the images from fluid-preserved specimens in U.S. museums, and produce “high-resolution anatomical data for more than 80 percent of vertebrate genera,” according to a museum statement.

Species range from reptiles like snapping turtles and green tree pythons to the tiny jaggedhead gurnard and even a baby seal.

Each scan exists as a snapshot of the individual organism at the moment it died. Not only are skeletons, muscles, internal organs, and circulatory and nervous systems visible — but also parasites, eggs, and even stomach contents.

The project is as technicolor as it is scientifically oriented. Contrast-augmenting stains indicate differences between tissue types and organs, and each specimen appears under its common and taxonomic (two-part Latin) name. The files are free to all via download on MorphoSource.

“The models give an intimate look at internal portions of a specimen that could previously only be observed through destructive dissection and tissue sampling,” the Florida museum said, “making 3-D anatomical data available to scientists, students and educators around the world.”

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.