From the perspective of science, it is important that the original fossils of ‘Peter’ are available for study in unaltered form. Inset into a mount on exhibit, they are not entirely out of reach, but hard to access. High resolution 3D digital models can stand in stead of the real bones for a wide variety of research questions.

There are a plethora of methods available for such 3D scanning. The most suitable for objects of complex shape and variable size is photogrammetry, an SFM (structure from motion) scanning method based on digital photography. The scans of Peter capture both the external shape and color of the fossil in high detail and are available as standard industry formats for easy usability.

Photogrammetry models are created by taking high resolution digital images of an object, with either the camera or the object or both moving between shots. Parallax between the images allows calculating the relative position of camera and object for each image position, based on a small sample of pixels (usually in the range of 10,000 to 100,000 per image). Once therelative positions are known, depth maps are calculated for each image, in which the distance of the object in the image from the camera is displayed for each pixel. From these, a simple but computationally expensive calculation can either create a high density point cloud of the object, which can then be meshed into a polygon surface, or produce a polygon model directly, depending on the software used.

Full report

Sharing the science

We’re pleased to be able to share Preliminary Scientific Reports to help visitors who come to see these incredible T. rex understand more about them.

These reports are prepared by two of the world’s top therapod paleontologists, Dr David Burnham (University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum) and Dr John Nudds (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester), who have studied both Peter and Barbara in their university laboratories for many months. Their research has identified the unique pathologies of each specimen, such as the injury to Barbara’s leg and the marks on Peter’s leg. As these reports are preliminary, they’re not peer-reviewed yet.

It’s not standard practice for a museum to share this much information when a specimen is being exhibited for the first time, but with the benefactor’s agreement we’re keen to share the initial findings, to enhance the learning experiences that having these two specimens in our Museum provides for the people of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Updates to the Preliminary Scientific Reports will be an ongoing process and will most likely span decades, rather than years.