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CT-Imaging Provides New View of Baby Mammoths [Video]

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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LAS VEGAS–Three-dimensional medical imaging of two baby woolly mammoths from Siberia named Lyuba and Khroma has given scientists an unprecedented view of the internal anatomy of these creatures. At the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Ethan Shirley and Daniel Fisher of the University of Michigan and their colleagues presented the results of their analyses of the images. I wrote about their observations–and the intriguing new questions they raise about mammoth development and evolution–here. The team also created stunning animations using the CT data. Check them out, below.

The first animation shows a rotating view of 42,000-year-old Luyba. By setting the display parameters to show only those tissues with the density of skin, an opaque image of the outside surface of the baby mammoth results.

The 3-D CT images are composed of layers of CT data, making it possible to cut away layers to view the body at varying depths. The second animation starts with the surface of Lyuba’s right side and peels away successive layers, moving toward her left side. The researchers adjusted the display parameters to show a range of tissue densities keyed to colors ranging from white to reddish brown. White areas indicate tissues as dense as bone (including teeth and concentrations of a mineral called vivianite that accumulated in some of Lyuba’s tissues after death); reddish brown areas show less dense tissues, such as muscle, organs and skin.

In the third animation, the researchers set the display parameters to render Khroma’s soft tissues transparent, revealing the skeleton inside. The resolution of the scan is 1 millimeter.

In the fourth animation, Lyuba’s soft tissues are rendered transparent, so her skeleton comes through in extraordinary detail.

Animations courtesy of the International Mammoth Committee; CT scans by Ford Motor Company, USA, and Centre hospitalier Emile Roux, Le Puy-en-Velay, France

About the Author: Kate Wong is an editor and writer at Scientific American covering paleontology, archaeology and life sciences. Follow on Twitter @katewong.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Wayne Williamson 11:09 am 11/13/2011

    very cool…

    Link to this

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