High-resolution computed tomography for the comparative study of fossil and extant bone



Special methods have been developed to use computed tomography (CT) for 3-dimensional imaging of both fossil and extant bones. Most commercial CT scanners cannot display the internal structure of fossils because the very high density is beyond the upper limits of the normal CT number scale (Hounsfield scale) of the scanners. X-ray projections from CT scans of fossils were modified by scaling the data to provide an expanded CT number scale, allowing the internal structure of highly fossilized objects to be visualized. These images were compared with state-of-the-art, high-resolution CT images of extant bone. Special image reformatting software was used to provide qualitative and quantitative 3-dimensional imaging.

The recent rapid advances in CT technology have made this imaging modality the procedure of choice in much of diagnostic radiology. Use of this tool in paleoanthropology has been limited in the past by restricted access to scanners. However, new developments in CT will make this technique available to many researchers in the near future.