Scientists' 3D-printed fossil of ancient Canberra region fish an Australian first – ABC Online


September 30, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ 3D Printed Articles


Scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) and Queensland Museum are among the country’s first to use 3D printing to better understand prehistoric life.

They examined a 400-million-year-old fossil of the extinct armoured fish from the placoderm group Buchanosteus, which was found about 50 kilometres north-west of Canberra.

The researchers used the 3D printer to create duplicates of the fossil that were three and six times the original size.

It meant they were better able to dissect the fish’s jaws and study the teeth-like denticles inside.

ANU PhD student Yuzhi Hu said the 3D technology had revolutionised the way researchers could examine the fossil.

“3D printing techniques are awesome,” she said.

“Fossils are very fragile and most of them are unique in the world so if you broke it that’s the end of the world to us.

“In palaeontology your specimen is basically everything to you.

“So using this technology you can duplicate your specimen and be able to study it in your way.”

Findings a hint to evolution of teeth

Dr Gavin Young from the ANU said the research was central to when and where teeth — a feature of all species that have jaws — first appeared.

“We are conducting further research on the internal tissue structure of tooth-like denticles in the mouth of the fish fossil, to determine whether they represent at transitional stage in the evolution of teeth,” Dr Young said.

Ms Hu said while the question of how humans came to have teeth was still a mystery it was an important question to ask.

“This has always been a very controversial question, the evolution of teeth and the evolution of jaws,” she said.

“We’re trying really hard to get this question solved but at this stage I don’t think anyone is happy to make a point of conclusion yet.

“When you wake up in the morning and you’re brushing your teeth have you ever wondered why you have them and how they evolved?”

Ms Hu said part of the intrigue was whether humans would have evolved if they did not have the teeth and jaw systems they have today.

Scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) and Queensland Museum are among the country’s first to use 3D printing to better understand prehistoric life.

They examined a 400-million-year-old fossil of the extinct armoured fish from the placoderm group Buchanosteus, which was found about 50 kilometres north-west of Canberra.

The researchers used the 3D printer to create duplicates of the fossil that were three and six times the original size.

It meant they were better able to dissect the fish’s jaws and study the teeth-like denticles inside.

ANU PhD student Yuzhi Hu said the 3D technology had revolutionised the way researchers could examine the fossil.

“3D printing techniques are awesome,” she said.

“Fossils are very fragile and most of them are unique in the world so if you broke it that’s the end of the world to us.

“In palaeontology your specimen is basically everything to you.

“So using this technology you can duplicate your specimen and be able to study it in your way.”

Findings a hint to evolution of teeth

Dr Gavin Young from the ANU said the research was central to when and where teeth — a feature of all species that have jaws — first appeared.

“We are conducting further research on the internal tissue structure of tooth-like denticles in the mouth of the fish fossil, to determine whether they represent at transitional stage in the evolution of teeth,” Dr Young said.

Ms Hu said while the question of how humans came to have teeth was still a mystery it was an important question to ask.

“This has always been a very controversial question, the evolution of teeth and the evolution of jaws,” she said.

“We’re trying really hard to get this question solved but at this stage I don’t think anyone is happy to make a point of conclusion yet.

“When you wake up in the morning and you’re brushing your teeth have you ever wondered why you have them and how they evolved?”

Ms Hu said part of the intrigue was whether humans would have evolved if they did not have the teeth and jaw systems they have today.

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