The Digital Fossils meeting has just ended its three day meeting held in the Museum fur Naturkunde in Berlin, organised by Heinrich Mallison...and what a splendid meeting! It seems that fossils have truly made their way into the 21st Century.
In the past ten years a series of image acquisition developments have dramatically increased the rate, size and format of data recoverable from fossils. The elegant simplicity of a line drawing often tried to capture the complex three-dimensional (3D) nuances of a fossil with the hindering constraints of a two-dimensional (2D) medium. Photography was rapidly adopted as a cost-affective medium from which multiple images might project the complexities of form. This simple and economic approach has now been heavily augmented by 3D photogrammetric techniques. These basic starting-points for data acquisition are still used in the acquisition of morphological data in palaeontology and are now augmented with the advances being made in photogrammetry. The digital revolution in photography has almost certainly advanced the ease of data acquisition, but increasing file size and sheer numbers have sunk many ‘standard’ 500 megabyte hard drives. External drives of 1-4 terabytes have become the norm as sinks for such digital photograph databases, but larger digital files are now being generated by a host of new imaging techniques being applied to the study and analysis of fossil samples.