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Professor hosts journey through insects' insides

Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - 02:52

Aug. 1 - A Spanish academic is using a microtomography scanner to open up a unique inside view of the world's insects. Professor Javier Alba-Tercedor has published his highly detailed insect scans on-line in the hope of inspiring a generation of students to study zoology, as Jim Drury reports.

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This video of the inside of a female aquatic beetle won Javier Alba-Tercedor a coveted CT scan award…..and an army of online followers. Alba-Tercedor has devoted his life to entomology - the study of insects - and the Granada University Professor wants his videos to inspire a new generation of young scientists. He puts online all his scans, which he makes using a SkyScan 1172 machine. The microtomographic scanner combines hundreds of X-ray photographs of a dead insect as it rotates slowly, producing a 3D image. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR JAVIER ALBA-TERCEDOR, OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GRANADA DEPARTMENT OF ZOOLOGY, SAYING: "Here there is an X-ray and a camera and the stage starts to rotate slowly, only 0.5 or even less degree each time, so in a scan of 180 degrees it can take so many pictures, and any time that it rotates it takes an X-ray photograph." While the machinery costs a quarter of a million dollars, Alba-Tercedor still has to cut his own lightweight, polystyrene plinths to hold his subjects in place. But he's full of praise for the Belgian manufacturer which is eager to help him push the boundaries of microtomography. They helped him produce his scans in multicolour, like this one of a mayfly. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR JAVIER ALBA-TERCEDOR, OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GRANADA DEPARTMENT OF ZOOLOGY, SAYING: "I could even construct and produce volume rendering with every single organ in different colour. ….The people of SkyScan…. implemented one utility that can give different colour, they are not real. Artificial colour, according to the transparency of the X-ray." His research has led to some interesting anatomical findings. For example, he says he's discovered that possessing enlarged tracheal tubes and heat deflecting internal plates help some species of beetle stay cool, allowing them to fly in the day. The Professor regards his 3D reconstructions as both artistic and educational, believing they could revolutionise anatomical teaching. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR JAVIER ALBA-TERCEDOR, OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GRANADA DEPARTMENT OF ZOOLOGY, SAYING: "Travelling inside the animals, reconstructing all the anatomy, in different point of view, cutting, moving around, so the student can move because all this software the animal that you have been scanning , and they can cut himself wherever they like, and studying the anatomy without dissecting the animal." Alba-Tercedor was awarded Skyscan 'Best Film of the Year' for 2012, which he says has increased public interest in his work. The Professor hopes his scans can help the public at large appreciate the inner beauty of the humble bug. Jim Drury, Reuters

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Professor hosts journey through insects' insides

Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - 02:52