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Fish scan
Spotfin hatchetfish — Thoracocorax stellatus. (Via Open Science Framework)

Forget the one that got away. A University of Washington professor is concentrating on the ones he can get his hands on as he sets out to scan and digitize the nearly 25,000 species of fish in existence.

Adam Summers, a UW professor of biology and aquatic and fishery sciences, says in a story in UW Today that the scans “are transforming the way we think about 3D data and accessibility.”

Accessibility is the key, as Summers is making the technology available to all and a library of high-resolution 3D images downloadable for free. Based out of a UW lab in Friday Harbor, Wash., Summers uses a small computerized tomography (CT) scanner which he was able to purchase last November after raising $340,000.

Fish scan
Longface eel — Saurenchelys-cognita. (Via Open Science Framework)

The CT scanner works like a hospital version of the machine, taking a series of X-ray images from different angles before combining them using computer processing to create 3D images of the fish skeletons. More from UW Today:

Students, postdoctoral researchers and professors from around the world have taken Summers up on the offer and come to the labs on San Juan Island to scan their favorite specimens. They also send boxes of fish specimens in the mail for Summers’ lab to scan and post online. Most scientists using the 3D fish data appear to be interested in measuring morphology — the length of a particular bone, for example — or looking for an aspect of anatomy never seen before.

So far about 515 species have been scanned and many are posted online. Summers is keeping it free and open to anyone who wants to use it, and the fish must come from museum-accessioned collections, UW Today reports. 

In a feat of fishing excellence, Summers reportedly expects to finish scanning all of the fish species in the world in two-and-a-half to three years. And he’ll keep his scanner warm with a planned project to scan all 50,000 vertebrate species on Earth next.

Fish scan
Fringed filefish — Monacanthus ciliatus. (Via Open Science Framework)
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