3D reconstructions of ancient arachnids

One of the finalists in the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2011 Photo Competition was an image from Russell Garwood. This image was not a traditional photograph but a 3D reconstruction of a 312 million year old arachnid Eophrynus prestvicii, from a CT scan of the fossil. The image itself will be the feature for the Imaggeo Mondays post on 16th May. However, due to the different nature of the image Russell has put together a brief description of the image and how it was created.

Russell Garwood is a invertebrate palaeontologist who is currently based at the Natural History Museum in London. He has a personal research webpage. He presented work on Tomographic reconstruction in palaeontology at the EGU General Assembly 2011.

Many Carboniferous fossils, such as this specimen of Eophrynus prestvicii, are found as three-dimensional voids within siderite (iron carbonate) concretions. This means that traditional palaeontological techniques – for example, splitting the rock open and inspecting the surface revealed – result in incomplete data recovery. Such limitations can be overcome with the aid of x-ray micro-tomography (XMT), a high-resolution form of CT scanning. This remarkably complete specimen of Eophrynus prestvicii was first described in 1871, and was used three years ago to test the applicability of XMT to siderite-hosted fossils, resulting in this image. The XMT provided a slice-based (tomographic) dataset. Custom software (called SPIERS) was used to threshold and clean each slice, and then define regions of interest. This allowed the limbs to be rendered separately and coloured. The image you see was then created by outputting a finished ‘virtual fossil’ as a mesh, and using the open source ray-tracer Blender to model it under user-defined lighting conditions. The reconstruction reveals an arachnid with heavy armour – presumably a defensive adaptation – and also showed, for the first time, the mouthparts (or chelicerae) of the species. Representatives of the order to which this species belongs, the Trigonotarbida, were amongst the earliest terrestrial predators. While this Carboniferous (~311 million year old) specimen postdates these early examples of the order by many millions of years, it too was a predator, probably running down its prey with its long limbs. The same techniques has now been applied to a wide range of the arthropods living in these Carboniferous coal forests. The image first appeared in the publication Garwood et al. (2009). A more comprehensive introduction to these techniques can be found in the publication Garwood et al. (2010).

Garwood, R.J., Dunlop, J.A. & Sutton, M.D. 2009. High-fidelity X-ray micro-tomography reconstruction of siderite-hosted Carboniferous arachnids. Biology Letters, 5(6):841-844. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0464 link, , requires subscription for full article]
Garwood, R.J., Rahman, I.A. & Sutton, M.D. 2010. From clergymen to computers – the advent of virtual palaeontology. Geology Today, 26(3):96-100.
doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2451.2010.00753.x link, requires subscription for full article

Geocinema films available online (3/3)

This is the last in a series of posts (Part 1, Part 2) with descriptions and online locations of Geocinema films. A film’s inclusion in the Geocinema does not mean that EGU endorses any opinions expressed in the film. If you have a film you’d like to submit for the Geocinema at the EGU GA 2012 look out for the call.

Inspection Exercise in Jordan, 6 mins [Online]
This film discusses a simulated on-site inspection exercise that was carried out in regards to monitoring compliance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

Listening for Nuclear Noise, 5 mins [Online]
This film discusses some of the technology used to monitor compliance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. In particular the technology that goes into a typical infrasound monitoring station, this particular station is located in the Bavarian Forest.

EISCAT_3D, our window to geospace, 7 min [Online]
FFAB:UK, together with EISCAT Scientific Association, has produced an information film about the EISCAT_3D project. It explains the background, the concept, and some of the new science that will be possible when the EISCAT_3D facilities are completed.

Earth System Trailer, 7 mins [Online]
Trailer for a documentary feature about climate, what the scientists know, what is unknown and what needs to be done to improve our stewardship of this planet. ESS trailer explores the need for next generation supercomputing to develop climate models which are a prerequisite to predicting climate change with scientific certainty.

SNORTEX – Snow reflectance transition experiment, 10 mins [Online]
The video introduces the SNORTEX (Snow Reflectance Transition Experiment) campaign taken place in Sodankylä (lat. 67.4N), Finland, in spring 2009. An overview on the background, objectives and expected scientific outcome of the campaign is given. Experimental methods and equipment employed in ground-based and air-borne measurements of snow reflectance and characterization of snow properties are presented.

Science@ESA: Solar System, Siblings of Earth and the Moon and Titan, 54 mins total [Online, with others]
In these Science@ESA vodcasts Rebecca Barnes looks at the Solar System. We’ll discover the scale and structure of the Solar System, find out why we explore it and introduce the European missions launched on a quest to further investigate our local celestial neighbourhood. We’ll look at two of the terrestrial planets: Venus and Mars, explore their similarities and differences to Earth and find out about the European missions that are helping to unravel their mysteries. Finally we’ll look at the Earth’s Moon and Titan, two very different natural satellites in our Solar System, and find out about the two ESA missions that have explored them.

Huygens probe landing on Earthlike world, 5 mins [Online]
This short film documents spectacular descent of ESA’s Huygens on Saturn’s giant moon Titan.

Geocinema Films available online (2/3)

Did you miss a particular film during the GeoCinema at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2011? Here’s the second post containing where to see films that are available online. A film’s inclusion in the Geocinema does not mean that EGU endorses any opinions expressed in the film.

Royal NIOZ, Fathoming the Sea, 10 mins [Online]
Once again a prominent scientific institute called Zcenes help in making science accessible for all who are fascinated by marine sciences. “After NWO, Utrecht University, European Science Foundation and NSF/IODP (USA), NIOZ, the Royal Dutch Maritime Research Centre, has asked us to produce a film focusing on how oceans work, global climate history, the dynamics of the coastal Waddenzee and the significance of Dutch maritime research”.

Drill Bits, 20 mins in total 5 mins for each section [Online, listed by geographical location]
Drilling into Lake Peten Itza (Guatemala) for paleoclimate studies on drill core. Scientific drilling into Lake Malawi (Malawi) for paleoclimate studies. Drilling through the San Andreas Fault at seismogenic depths. Scientific Drilling at Hawaii to investigate Hot Spot volcanism.

Deep Sea Observatories: Internet in the Ocean, 9 mins [Online, with other similar movies]

ESONET movie to show observatories preparation and deployment on ESONET sites.

Ocean Under Observation, 9 mins [Online, with other similar movies]
This movie explain why now we have to go a step forward in the earth and Sea observation by developing and implementing deep sea observatories that are able to provide real time or near real time data continuously, with a high sampling frequency and on long term, (more than 10 years).

Signs of Life on Mars, 5 mins [Online]
A musical video to inspire the next generation of explorers.

Geocinema Films available to view online (1/3)

Did you miss a particular film during the GeoCinema at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2011? Quite a few of the films are available online. In this series of posts the descriptions and online locations of these films will be discussed. A film’s inclusion in the Geocinema does not mean that EGU endorses any opinions expressed in the film.

River Trip with Family, 5 mins [Online]
Water is life! A family experiences the element “water” in a series of different settings during a boat cruise on a river. The film gives an overview of the benefits hydrology provides to society in the context of the so-called State’s provision of general public services. It was produced by the German Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG), on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs (BMVBS) to commemorate the anniversary “200 Years of Hydrology in Germany”.

Stefano Mancuso: The roots of plant intelligence, 14 mins [Online]
Plants behave in some oddly intelligent ways: fighting predators, maximizing food opportunities … But can we think of them as actually having a form of intelligence of their own? Italian botanist Stefano Mancuso presents intriguing evidence.

Greg Stone: Saving the ocean one island at a time, 17 mins [Online]
Aboard Mission Blue, scientist Greg Stone tells the story of how he helped the Republic of Kiribati create an enormous protected area in the middle of the Pacific — protecting fish, sealife and the island nation itself.

Lee Hotz: Inside an Antarctic time machine, 10 mins [Online]
Science columnist Lee Hotz describes a remarkable project at WAIS Divide, Antarctica, where a hardy team are drilling into ten-thousand-year-old ice to extract vital data on our changing climate. Talk from, distributed under a Creative Commons License.

Rob Dunbar: Discovering ancient climates in oceans and ice, 18 mins [Online]
Rob Dunbar hunts for data on our climate from 12,000 years ago, finding clues inside ancient seabeds and corals and inside ice sheets. His work is vital in setting baselines for fixing our current climate — and in tracking the rise of deadly ocean acidification.

Michael Specter: The danger of science denial, 17 mins [Online]
Vaccine-autism claims, “Frankenfood” bans, the herbal cure craze: All point to the public’s growing fear (and, often, outright denial) of science and reason, says Michael Specter. He warns the trend spells disaster for human progress. Talk from, distributed under a Creative Commons License.

IODP 318 Wilkes Land Expedition, 20 mins [Online]
From January to March 2010, the JOIDES Resolution sailed on IODP Expedition 318 to the Antarctic coastline of Wilkes Land. During this two-month voyage a team of top international scientists explored the history of Antarctic climate changes over the past 53 million years. By drilling for unprecedented sediment cores from the bottom of the Southern Ocean, scientists can begin to understand the process behind the transition from the greenhouse world into the present icehouse world and it’s impact on global climate. This 20 minute documentary tells their story; the adventures at sea, the scientific operations and life on board.