Last week, the College of the Holy Cross launched a new 3D online database of birds. Extant, recently extinct, and fossil birds. This new Web site is called the Aves 3D Web site and is available at http://aves3d.org. This site contains about 200 three-dimensional models of bird bones from 98 different species. The models were made by non-contact laser scanning of skeletons.
From the front page you can do a keyword search or you can browse several different ways, including by scientific name, common name, or skeletal element. I browsed through the common names which goes from “American Flamingo” to “Stout-Legged Moa”. I thought the “Bohemian Waxwing” looked interesting, so I chose that bird. The Aves 3D Web site had one model available for that bird: a breast bone.
You will have to have Java enabled (and in my case even though I did have Java enabled, the site repeatedly complained that I didn’t, much to my bemusement, though I could certainly view the models) but if you do an applet will start that will allow you to click and drag the model around and view it from all angles. You can also zoom. There are instructions for moving the model but I couldn’t get those to work.
After you’ve finished goofing around with the model, scroll down. You’ll see additional bits of information including some notes on the bird, specimen and technical information (who scanned it and when) and some still photographs of the specimen. If you register for a free account on the site, you’ll find that some of the models (though not all) have free digital models available for download.
Holy Cross plans to add new models to the site weekly so I expect it’ll grow significantly from its current listings. I can’t say this is a resource I’m going to refer to every day, but being able to interact with all these skeletal elements was fascinating! Plus I was very impressed with how quickly the Java applets loaded. Take a look.