Article: Surface laser scanning of fossil insect wings
Olivier Béthoux, John McBride and Christian Maul
Primary homologization of wing venation is of crucial importance in taxonomic studies of fossil and recent insects, with implications for large-scale phylogenies. Homologization is usually based on relative relief of veins (with an insect ground plan of alternating concave and convex vein sectors). However, this method has led to divergent interpretations, notably because vein relief can be attenuated in fossil material or because wings were originally flat. In order to interpret better vein relief in fossil insect wings, we tested the application of non-contact laser scanning. This method enables high resolution three-dimensional (3-D) data visualization of a surface, and produces high quality images of fossil insect wings. These images facilitate and improve interpretation of the homologization of wing venation. In addition, because the surface information is digitised in three axes (X, Y, Z), the data may be processed for a wide range of surface characteristics, and may be easily and widely distributed electronically. Finally, this method permits users to reconstruct accurately the fossils and opens the field of biomechanical interpretation using numerical modelling methods.