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3D insect scanner reveals inner workings of the wasp

Tuesday, July 01, 2014 - 01:10

High-resolution 3D scanning technology is taking entomology into a new era, with researchers able to show with unparalleled clarity the internal and external structures of insects. Using advanced microtomography, Professor Javier Alba-Tercedor at the University of Grenada shows in his latest research the delicate and complex body of the common European paper wasp. Matthew Stock reports.

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This 3D model shows in stunning clarity the internal and external structure of Polistes gallicus - otherwise known as the common European paper wasp. Until recently studying organisms this small involved microscopes and dissection. But zoology Professor Javier Alba-Tercedor from the University of Granada has mastered a technique using microtomography, a non-invasive method where a rotating scanner takes x-ray photographs of an insect. By combining hundreds of these photographs, a complete picture can be produced in unprecedented detail. Alba-Tercedor uses a scanner from Belgian company Bruker microCT, formally Skyscan, which costs about a quarter of a million dollars. Similar to medical CT scanners, these machines are designed for much, much smaller organisms. The x-ray scan also gives a unique view of the insect from within - without the need for dissecting, and thus destroying, the specimen. Professor Alba-Tercedor uploads his videos online, to help others answer some of the insectoid questions that have long bugged scientists.

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3D insect scanner reveals inner workings of the wasp

Tuesday, July 01, 2014 - 01:10