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3D Imaging Helps in Evolutionary Research

A team of researchers at Curtin University have uncovered how the pelvic fins of fish such as sharks and chimaeras have evolved from their sudden appearance in the fossil record over 410 million years ago. By using CT scanning and 3D modelling, the team was able to study the growth of pelvic fins in fish embryos, developing a deeper understanding of how the skeleton of these fins changed over evolutionary history.

For the study, shark embryos (some as small as 65mm) were nano-CT scanned alongside researchers at McGill University in Canada, with each part of the pelvic skeleton modelled in 3D at the Curtin HIVE (Hub for Immersive Visualisation and eResearch).

A visualisation technology specialist at the Curtin HIVE stated that the CT scans were used to visualise and model the earliest stages of skeletal development of the elephant shark embryos. She noted that the work shows that modern imaging technologies can provide insight into the development of modern animals and inform scientists’ understanding of the evolution of their anatomy.

The research was funded by an Australian Government Research Training Programme Scholarship, Curtin Research Fellowship, the Canadian Foundation of Innovation and the Australian Research Council (ARC) grant. It was published in the Journal of Developmental Biology; the research is titled ‘The Development of the Chimaeroid pelvic skeleton and the Evolution of Chondrichthyan Pelvic Fins’.

Lead author and PhD candidate Jacob Pears from Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences said the research showed what the development of modern animals can tell us about their evolution. The fine detail from the imaging revealed the basipterygium (pelvic fin bar), which like the femur and tibia in humans, were formed by the fusion of fin radials during early embryonic development.

The 3D modelling market size is expected to increase from US$2.316 billion in 2021 to US$6.33 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of over 15.49% during the forecast period. Another report notes that the development of 3D mapping and 3D modelling software that can assess shapes in real-time can be attributed to the increasing adoption of 3D technology across a variety of industries and sectors. This is to help meet the increasing demand for emerging applications, including shape analysis, 3D mapping, and 3D modelling, among others.

3D technology finds diverse uses. The Australian Research Council (ARC) and a Monash University-led consortium have funded new infrastructure with advanced multi-functional 3D imaging capabilities. The investment of AU1.58M will enable the world-leading 3D imaging of micro and nanoscale devices. These facilities will provide exceptional capacity to explore the complex processes in electrical, photonic, optoelectronic and energy devices in Australia.

Recently, an international team, including experts from the University of Western Australia, have used 3D imaging to better examine rare silverware from the Batavia shipwreck at Fremantle’s WA Shipwrecks Museum. The team included digital and metals experts from the Rijksmuseum, the University of Amsterdam and Arvi Wattel, an art historian and researcher from UWA’s Design School.

Recent research found that, in 2021, the global computed tomography market size was valued at around US$4 billion. It is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.3% from 2022 to 2030. The main drivers of this market include technological advancements in CT technology as well as the growing prevalence of chronic disorders such as cancer, orthopaedics, and cardiovascular and neurological conditions.

In 2020, the World Health Organisation found that cancer accounted for about 10 million deaths globally. The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in the growing usage of CT scan equipment, and therefore, a rise in the demand for advanced imaging solutions is projected to drive market expansion.


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