WSTHU2: Unraveling the Past – Paleoanthropology and X-ray Imaging

Virtual Wsorkshop (Zoom Link:

Virtual Wsorkshop

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Our knowledge of the human evolutionary journey has increased by leaps and bounds in the last twenty years as the result of the recovery of new fossils and advances in imaging. Anthropology and paleontology teams have demonstrated the efficacy of tomographic imaging using synchrotron radiation for revealing the three-dimensional (3D) cellular-level structure of bone matrix, tooth enamel, dentine, and cementum. Micro CT scanning of paleontological specimens has dramatically increased the types and resolution of data that can be obtained from fossils and enabled the digital excavation of previously unknown fossil elements. However only synchrotron X-ray microtomography can resolve very small, internal structures such as the incremental growth lines in dental enamel. One remarkable example is the documentation of long-decayed muscle attachments in fossil vertebrates from the 3D orientation of microscopic extrinsic fibers embedded in the bone. Beyond documenting novel aspects of vertebrate paleobiology, these imaging approaches also have direct relevance for assessing biomedical interventions of today and tomorrow, particularly with the advent of dental tissue engineering, stem cell bone graft treatments, and 3D printing technologies. Conventional approaches necessitate the study of physically sectioned bones and teeth for microscopic study (histology), thus limiting the understanding of complex 3D microstructures. As of today, bone and tooth histology cannot be visualized with widely available laboratory-grade micro-computed tomography (microCT) due to reliance on X-ray absorption contrast rather than phase-contrast. With the development of high-energy phase-contrast X-ray imaging at the High-Energy Scattering (HEX) Beamline at NSLS-II, opportunities arise for the facility to participate in these high-impact and high-visibility studies. The goal of this workshop is to showcase the state of the art in the application of X-ray imaging to paleoanthropology studies and to discuss future developments beneficial for this research area.

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    • 1:30 PM 1:50 PM
      Introduction 20m
      Speakers: Juergen Thieme (BNL), Lawrence Martin
    • 1:50 PM 2:15 PM
      Scanning fossils at the ESRF: past, present and bright future 25m
      Speaker: Paul Tafforeau (ESRF)
    • 2:15 PM 2:40 PM
      HEX, a new beamline to join the dig for old bones 25m
      Speaker: Michael Drakopoulos (BNL)
    • 2:40 PM 3:05 PM
      Evolution of the bivalve shell across shifting climates: insights from microCT and prospects for synchrotron X-ray imaging 25m
      Speaker: Stewart Edie (Smithsonian Institution)
    • 3:05 PM 3:15 PM
      Break 10m
    • 3:15 PM 3:40 PM
      Visualizing inner ears with CT, from fossils to soft-tissue 25m
      Speaker: Fred Spoor (Natural History Museum)
    • 3:40 PM 4:05 PM
      Puzzling Uncertainty: virtual reconstruction of fossil skulls 25m
      Speaker: Phllip Gunz (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology )
    • 4:05 PM 4:30 PM
      Applications of Synchrotron Imaging for Evolutionary Anthropology 25m
      Speaker: Tanya Smith (Griffith University)
    • 4:30 PM 4:55 PM
      Alesi baby ape cranium: a recent case study of the transformative potential power of synchrotron imaging in Paleoanthropology 25m
      Speaker: Isaiah Nengo (Stony Brook University)
    • 4:55 PM 5:25 PM
      Discussion and closeout 30m