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Virtual Taphonomy Using Synchrotron Tomographic Microscopy Reveals Cryptic Features and Internal Structure of Modern and Fossil Plants

Selena Y. Smith, Margaret E. Collinson, Paula J. Rudall, David A. Simpson, Federica Marone, Marco Stampanoni and Scott Wing
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 106, No. 29 (Jul. 21, 2009), pp. 12013-12018
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40484074
Page Count: 6
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Virtual Taphonomy Using Synchrotron Tomographic Microscopy Reveals Cryptic Features and Internal Structure of Modern and Fossil Plants
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Abstract

While more commonly applied in zoology, synchrotron radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM) is well-suited to nondestructive study of the morphology and anatomy of both fossil and modern plants. SRXTM uses hard X-rays and a monochromatic light source to provide high-resolution data with little beam-hardening, resulting in slice data with clear boundaries between materials. Anatomy is readily visualized, including various planes of section from a single specimen, as clear as in traditional histological sectioning at low magnifications. Thus, digital sectioning of rare or difficult material is possible. Differential X-ray attenuation allows visualization of different layers or chemistries to enable virtual 3-dimensional (3D) dissections of material. Virtual potential fossils can be visualized and digital tissue removal reveals cryptic underlying morphology. This is essential for fossil identification and for comparisons between assemblages where fossils are preserved by different means. SRXTM is a powerful approach for botanical studies using morphology and anatomy. The ability to gain search images in both 2D and 3D for potential fossils gives paleobotanists a tool—virtual taphonomy—to improve our understanding of plant evolution and paleobiogeography.

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