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Microfossil Mania

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Microfossil Mania

Work Continues in the World of Microfossils Steve Young, our Honorary Micro fossil Preparatory Technician has now amassed in excess of 150 specimens all now photographed and ready for identification work that is carried out by specialist palaeontologists. These fossils are typically 1-2mm in size and the process of photography is quite intricate.

Steve describes his process, "I use a mapping pin as my stage to place my fossil specimens on. Very much like a CT scanner I need to take many images, typically 30 to 100, each one focusing slightly further back than the last. With this specialised photography, I can only get a very thin wafer in focus at any one time, so I need to take successive images and then use specialised “image stacking” software to marry all the in-focus bits together."

Above: The mapping pin that steve uses to stabilise the  specimen so it can then be photographed.

To accurately achieve each series of images, the camera with a super-macro lens is mounted on a computer-driven rail. I tell the computer when it is focused on the front of my fossil and then move the rail forward to the point when the fossil is in focus at the back. Then by keying in how many images I judge will be needed, the computer calculates how far to advance the rail after each image is taken. The results are always pleasing as the details revealed are often not previously seen, even under the microscope! Sometimes it is almost like a second discovery!

Above:  The motorised rail and microphotography kit used to photograph 1mm wide specimens.

The importance of these high-resolution images is two-fold. Firstly, they are used to help with identification, allowing the precious specimens to remain in the Museum. Secondly and very importantly, it will be the photography that will be used in the museum as the display element. It would otherwise be impossible for Museum visitors to take in the beauty and importance of each specimen if all they could see was something that looked like a speck of sand!

Above: The results of the hard work, this is a partial dentary row from a desert Gekonid.

Steve Young
Honorary Microfossil Processing Technician (HMPT)
Eromanga Natural History Museum


Frequently Asked Questions

How do you recognise dinosaur fossils’

Fossils are predominantly black coloured and will look different to other rocks in the same area, plus they are heavier than rocks. Often they are broken into irregular fragments and have a porous structure.

Interesting fact: Sometimes if you put your tongue on the rock and it sticks a little bit this can also mean it is a fossil.

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