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See 15 animals in amazing X-ray vision

Chart of oVert scans
OVert's CT scans reveal a myriad of information about the anatomy of thousands of specimens, offering insight into how these animals lived and reproduced.Edward Stanley / Florida Museum of Natural History
  • The openVertebrate Project, a.k.a oVert, CT scanned the innards of over 13,000 museum specimens.

  • Their newly published images let you see inside lizards, birds, rodents, and more.

  • Over the next four years, the oVert team plans to CT scan 20,000 more museum specimens.

Ever wish you had X-ray vision?

The openVertebrate project, or oVert for short, is built on the next best thing: CT scanning.

Over the last six years, this project has partnered with 18 institutions to scan the innards of over 13,000 museum specimens.

But they won't stop there. The project's team plans to ramp things up to produce 20,000 scans over the next four years.

Their 3-D images showcase the intricate biodiversity of thousands of animal species.

"When people first collected these specimens, they had no idea what the future would hold for them," Edward Stanley, the project's co-principal investigator, said in a press release.

The project's mission is to improve the accessibility of museum specimens, and oVert has made their images publicly available so that researchers, and anyone curious about animal anatomy, can learn from them.

"If you require someone to get on a plane and travel to you to collaborate, that's prohibitive in a lot of ways," David Blackburn, the project's lead principal investigator, said in the press release.

"Now we have scientists, teachers, students, and artists around the world using these data remotely," Blackburn said.

A black bellied fruit bat and its enormous wings

CT scan of a black bellied fruit bat
A black bellied fruit bat specimen (left) and a 3-D rendered CT scan of its internal structure (right).Jaimi A. Gray / openVertebrate

The images allow you to see animals as you've never seen them before, revealing their inner anatomy. Check out the skeletal structure of this black bellied fruit bat's wings.

A spiny mouse with an armored tail

CT scan of spiny mousse
This image of a spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus) shows its armored tail.Edward Stanley / Florida Museum of Natural History / openVertebrate

The project even made some new discoveries. Scanning this spiny mouse revealed its armored tail, and helped confirm that it's related to other rodents with the same trait.

A Mexican bearded lizard

CT scan of Mexican bearded lizard
The red dots in this image of a Mexican bearded lizard are bony armor studs that cover its skin.Edward Stanley / Florida Museum of Natural History / openVertebrate

This Mexican bearded lizard is suited with armor too. The oVert project allows scientists to track the evolution of similar armor plating across fish, amphibians, reptiles, and even mammals.

A chameleon

CT scan of a veiled chameleon
CT scan of a veiled chameleon, showing the inner structure of its casque: the bony protrusion atop its head.Edward Stanley / Florida Museum of Natural History / openVertebrate

This scan revealed the unique skull shape of a veiled chameleon. The giant protrusion on top of its head is called a casque. Its primary function is to channel water droplets into the chameleon's mouth.

A northern sheep frog with a giant heart

The vascular system of a Northern sheep frog.
The vascular system of a Northern sheep frog.Edward Stanley / Florida Museum of Natural History / openVertebrate

But the scans revealed more than just bone structures. Here's the vascular system of a Northern sheep frog. Its heart makes up a sizable portion of its body size.

A challenging echidna

CT scan of an echidna
Echidnas are covered in sharp spines to protect them from predators, which made this specimen difficult to scan.Edward Stanley / Florida Museum of Natural History / openVertebrate

The most challenging specimen to scan was this echidna, due to its sharp spines. To create this image, oVert scientists had to secure the specimen in durable bags.

A seahorse's intricate skeleton

CT scan seahorse
CT scan of a seahorse, showing the intricacy of its skeleton.Edward Stanley / Florida Museum of Natural History / openVertebrate

Seahorses look almost the same on the outside as they do in X-rays. This seahorse scan showcases the delicate, complex interlocking bones of its skeleton.

A gopher tortoise

CT scan turtle
3-D renderings of a gopher tortoise CT scan, showing the anatomy of its shell (upper left and bottom right), major internal organs (upper right), and skeleton and musculature (bottom left).Jaimi A. Gray / openVertebrate

Ever wonder what's inside a tortoise's shell? These images show different parts of a gopher tortoise's anatomy, from its outer shell to its internal organs and skeleton.

3D model of a Komodo dragon skull

komodo dragon skull 3D model
3-D model of a Komodo dragon skull with bones colored and labelled to show anatomy.Jaimi A. Gray / openVertebrate

This 3D model of a Komodo dragon's skull showcases its massive jaws, but this lizard has a surprisingly weak bite. Its killing power actually comes from venom stored in a lower jaw gland.

A Syrian spadefoot toad

syrian spadefoot toad skeleton
The skeletal structure of a Syrian spadefoot toad.Zachary S. Randall / openVertebrate

Here's a colorized scan of a Syrian spadefoot toad that shows its bone density. Green areas are high density and dark blue areas are low density. The low density in the limbs indicates spongey bone, allowing for more flexibility.

A lizard mom-to-be and her unborn little ones

spiny lizard CT

A scan revealed something hidden inside this spiny lizard: babies! On the far left, you can see the skeletal structure of this lizard mom and all eight of her offspring. And on the far right, you can see the baby lizards' brains, spinal cords, hearts, and eyes.

A pregnant Mexican musk turtle

Mexican musk turtle scan
The internal structure of a Mexican musk turtle that was "gravid" meaning she was carrying eggs.Zachary S. Randall / openVertebrate

There was another surprise hiding inside this Mexican musk turtle specimen. Looking closely at the upper-right image, you'll notice four eggs tucked inside its coelom.

A green heron

Green heron scan
This colorized high-resolution computed tomography reconstruction of a green heron showcases its long neck vertebrae.Zachary S. Randall / openVertebrate

This scan of a green heron revealed that unlike other bird species, its trachea is much shorter than its neck vertebrae. This suggests that the trachea is very flexible, stretching like an accordion when the heron extends its long neck to catch prey.

A roloway monkey's skull

Roloway monkey skull
X-ray CT scan of a roloway monkey skull.Zachary S. Randall / openVertebrate

If this image looks familiar, that's because it's of our monkey cousins. This X-ray of a roloway monkey shows permanent teeth preparing to erupt and replace the specimen's baby teeth.

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