CT scan of the lined seahorse Hippocampus erectus
This colorful and captivating CT scan of a seahorse is part of a multimillion-dollar National Science Foundation project that seeks to provide free, digital 3D vertebrate anatomy models and data to researchers, educators, students and the public.
Texas A&M University is one of 16 institutions nationally participating in the effort, known as “Open Vertebrate Exploration in 3D,” or oVert. By 2021, the project seeks to scan 20,000 preserved specimens from U.S. museum collections, producing high-resolution anatomical data that can be used for biodiversity research and aid in the discovery and conservation of species. At Texas A&M, students are utilizing the scans in courses covering vertebrate diversity.
This particular seahorse specimen is housed in Texas A&M’s Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections, one of the nation’s largest university-based natural history collections with more than 1.3 million preserved specimens ranging from fishes and amphibians to reptiles, birds, mammals, parasites and marine invertebrates. The collection is maintained by the Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Natural history collections are a priceless and infinite source of information on the natural world that enrich all of our lives,” said Dr. Kevin Conway, associate professor and curator of fishes. “We cannot predict the value of these specimens to future generations, which is why they must be maintained in perpetuity.”
The lined seahorse
Hippocampus erectus belongs to the seahorse family Syngnathidae. This species can be found as far north as Canada or as south as Uruguay. The specimen was sent to The University of Florida as part of the oVert project, where it was scanned and visualized by Zach Randall, a collection technician at the Florida Museum.