3D external restorations of stegocephalian skulls using ZBrush: The renaissance of fossil amphibians

Jean-Sébastien STEYER, Marc BOULAY & Sylvia LORRAIN

en Comptes Rendus Palevol 9 (6-7) - Pages 463-470

Published on 30 November 2010

This article is a part of the thematic issue Imaging and 3D in palaeontology and palaeoanthropology

Cranial soft tissues (eyes, dermis, muscles, etc.) have never been preserved in fossil stegocephalians, and few specific studies have been done on their related osteological features (such as dermosensory canals, dermal bone ornamentation and microstructure). Consequently, the most useful tool to reconstruct stegocephalians remains the actualistic comparison with analogous living ecomorphotypes. Coupled with numerical sculpturing technologies available with the software ZBrush, it is now possible to appreciate the cranial soft tissues in 3D and to better reconstruct the external skull structures. Examples are given of the early tetrapod Acanthostega gunnari from the Devonian of Greenland and the Triassic temnospondyls Edingerella madagascariensis from Madagascar and Parotosuchus sp. from Antarctica. This palaeontological application of ZBrush is one of its first scientific uses. The obtained reconstructions are useful for scientific publication and in return they allow palaeontologists to better understand the palaeobiology of extinct organisms.


Palaeobiology, Early tetrapods, Temnospondyls, Exceptional preservation, Soft tissues, Science diffusion, Actualism

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