Ever felt like cranking up your 3D printer and making fossil recreations suitable for living room décor?
Now you can, thanks to a free website under the auspices of Duke University that allows registered users to peruse a library of some 9,000 digital scans of fossils uploaded to the site from scientists at more than 70 institutions.
The site, MorphoSource, was created by Duke assistant professor Doug Boyer, and the university calls it the "largest and most open digital fossil repository of its kind." Just this month it announced the addition of more than 400 skulls and other bones from 59 species of apes, lemurs, and monkeys.
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The site boasts among its digitized goodies a fossil superstar: Homo naledi, the ancient human that made headlines worldwide when it was found in a South African cave in 2015. MorphoSource made available to site visitors more than 80 scans of bones from the famous fossil find. Including, yes, a skull.
While many institutions have made moves to digitize their fossil collections, MorphoSource says it is one of the only ones that has put all of the images under one roof.
"We're essentially taking bones out of museum catacombs and putting them online," Boyer said in a press release.
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The site offers image files representing bones from more than 500 extinct species. Visitors can rotate the images, zoom in/out on them and run them through a 3D printer.
Among the other scans on the site are Megalodon teeth, vertebrae from the largest snake ever known (Titanoboa), and the bones of a foot-plus-long devil frog.
"Paleoanthropology has been relying on digital data more and more," Boyer said. "Before we released this dataset, only a dozen labs around the world had digital samples that large at their fingertips. Overnight we leveled the playing field in a significant way."