Computed Tomography as an Emerging Tool for Lizard Biology

Hall, Alexander S.

Thermo Fisher Scientific

Houston, TX

Department of Biology

The University of Texas at Arlington

Arlington, TX

Scherz, Mark D.

Zoologische Staatssammlung München (ZSM-SNSB)

Munich, Germany

Zoologisches Institut

Technische Universität Braunschweig

Braunschweig, Germany

Developed for industrial use over the last thirty years, high resolution X-ray computed tomography (CT, or µCT) increasingly sees use as a discovery tool for reptile study. As of April 2018, searching for "computed tomography AND lizard OR snake" yields over 9300 articles. This talk briefly covers the principles and history of CT before laying out cases where CT data led to discoveries not possible by other mechanisms. In particular, we will show how CT uncovered squamate inner ear evolution, describe shedding osteoderms in the fish scaled gecko, and find bony tumors in snakes. We conclude with recommendations for study design, minimizing costs, specimen handling, software considerations, and data distribution and storage. We hope that this discussion will demonstrate how CT can be used as a tool for research even for biologists with no previous experience working with X-rays or 3D data.