3D Fossil Scan Resources

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    Hi everyone,

    This paper collects some of the best resources online for 3D fossil scans, and details a bit of the rationale behind the process of 3D printing in STEM.


    As a caveat I’d recommend using Agisoft (http://www.agisoft.com/) instead of 123Dcatch for scanning, as recommended, because of some issues with terms of use in this 123Dcatch software.

    Scans can be opened and used in software like MeshLab: http://meshlab.sourceforge.net/


    Bruce MacFadden

    @taorminalepore @cgrant

    Thanks Tara for letting us know about this interesting and comprehensive article! It will help us with one that we are writing for a shortcourse to be held in Denver in September.



    Hi Bruce, no problem at all, happy to help! It’s a pretty great list, should be useful in the future.

    Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help– @bmacfadden @cgrant

    Claudia Grant

    @bmacfadden @taorminalepore @llundgren

    Hello guys, I have compiled a list of resources that offer open-source 3D files (mostly fossils, but also others that might be of interest). The list will be updated at: http://www.paleoteach.org/3d_resources/
    If you have new resources, let me know and I will add to our list. My next step will be to compile open source software to read 3D files, then I will move on to scanners and printer. Stay tuned!
    MorphoSource is a project-based data archive that allows researchers to store and organize, share, and distribute their own 3d data. Furthermore any registered user can immediately search for and download 3d morphological data sets that have been made accessible through the consent of data authors.
    Paleobiology and Fossil Whales: Webcast and Teaching Resources
    Dr. Nick Pyenson is a paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Join him in uncovering fossil whales in Panama, Canada, and Chile. Probe into the evolutionary mysteries contained in fossil whale skeletons. Download Smithsonian X3D: 3D model of a Cerro Ballena whale

    Smithsonian X3D
    Smithsonian X 3D launches a set of use cases which apply various 3D capture methods to iconic collection objects, as well as scientific missions. These projects indicate that this new technology has the potential not only to support the Smithsonian mission, but to transform museum core functions.
    Virtual Fossils
    Virtual Fossils is a free online atlas of ancient organisms, consisting of interactive 3-D computer reconstructions of fossils, together with information about their significance for understanding the history of life. Many of the virtual fossils on this site were produced using computed tomography.

    Digital Morphology
    The Digital Morphology library is a dynamic archive of information on digital morphology and high-resolution X-ray computed tomography of biological specimens. Browse through the site and see spectacular imagery and animations and details on the morphology of many representatives of the Earth’s biota.

    Inside-Zoo is a site dedicated to the marvelous world of animal anatomy and physiology. By applying modern medical imaging techniques (MR, CT, PET, US) they have generated an ever growing library of anatomical data from both well-known and exotic species. Providing images, movies, interactive models and 3D-print-files of animal anatomy and physiology they seek to aid our fellow researchers in their quest to understand how animals function and capture the imagination of the layman.
    The First 3D Atlas of the Extinct Dodo
    The dodo represents one of the best-known examples of extinction caused by humans, yet we know surprisingly little about this flightless pigeon from a scientific perspective. Now, for the first time since its extinction, a 3-D atlas of the skeletal anatomy of the dodo has been created, based upon two exceptional dodo skeletons that have remained unstudied for over a century.

    NASA 3D Resources
    Here you’ll find a growing collection of 3D models, textures, and images from inside NASA. All of these resources are free to download and use.

    MakerBot’s Thingiverse is a thriving design community for discovering, making, and sharing 3D printable things. As the world’s largest 3D printing community, we believe that everyone should be encouraged to create and remix 3D things, no matter their technical expertise or previous experience. In the spirit of maintaining an open platform, all designs are encouraged to be licensed under a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone can use or alter any design.


    Eleanor Gardner

    @mhendrickson – I saw on the PCP PIRE/GABI RET facebook page that you presented this week at an ed-tech conference on the use of paleo 3D models for K-12 education! I’d love to know more – how was your presentation received? Any pictures? 🙂

    cc: @cgrant



    Hi Eleanor!

    I presented at the International Society for Technology in Education conference in Denver on Tuesday.  We shared the lessons that I wrote with Sean Moran and Victor Perez that used the 3D printed fossils in the middle school classroom.  We were very well received and people were excited to have NGSS aligned lessons in the classroom that also utilized the 3D printing technology.  I do have a couple of pictures on my phone, I believe they are the same ones online.  I can email them to you if you would like.  We are in California now for the kick off meeting of the iDigFossils project:)

    Have an awesome 4th!


    Eleanor Gardner

    Awesome, @mhendrickson! (Sorry that I lost track of your forum response somehow.) Sounds like an incredible experience. Will you be able to get feedback from any teachers who implement your lesson plans in their classrooms? And yes, please do send me some photos – that would be great! Hope Cali and the iDigFossils kickoff was fabulous! Are you in Panama now? What a world traveler! 🙂



    Hi Eleanor,

    I am not on the Panama trip this year, I am going to attend the Monterey Bay Aquarium Project Based Learning Institute in California instead.  I have been having fossil withdraws looking at al of the amazing finds coming out of Panama. As of now, I don’t think we have a way to receive feedback from the teachers who use the lessons.  I gave people my contact info in case they had any questions, but a feedback form would be a great thing to add to the iDigFossils website.  I’ll have to mention that to Claudia.

    Hope all is well,


    Maggie Paxson

    Hello, all!  @mhendrickson and I found a bunch of cool resources on this website (GB3D fossil database) yesterday while at the iDigFossils PD in Santa Cruz. l The site has a bunch of fantastic 3D resources for British fossils, many of which have accompanying scan files you can download and then print.  These appear to be all museum quality fossils, so happy printing!

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