Free virtual fossils for everyone archives 3-D images of bones from over 200 genera

3-D skull

NOW IN 3-D  MorphoSource is a free database of 3-D images of fossils (Homo naledi shown)., Peter Schmid/Univ. of the Witwatersrand

At, playing with fossils is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. The online database is home to oodles of digital 3-D scans of bones from both extinct and modern-day creatures. Anyone with an Internet connection is free to peruse the images, manipulate and rotate specimens and even download instructions to 3-D print them.

So far, scientists have contributed images representing over 200 genera. Among the newest uploads are fossils of the recently discovered Homo naledi, the controversial species that may be at the base of the human genus (SN: 10/3/15, p. 6). MorphoSource’s collection is primate-heavy, but users will also find scans of other mammals, reptiles, fish and even insects.

The website, funded by Duke University and the National Science Foundation, offers several ways to search for specimens, such as by taxonomy. But those unfamiliar with animals’ Latin names may find the database difficult to navigate. Still, MorphoSource is a great resource for anyone who’s always wanted to get their hands on some fossils. 

Erin Wayman is the managing editor for print and longform content at Science News. She has a master’s degree in biological anthropology from the University of California, Davis and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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