Unprecedented images from inside a common male spider have been produced by leading entomologist Professor Javier Alba-Tercedor. They’re the latest of Alba-Tercedor’s incredibly detailed arthropod micro-CT scans published in a bid to transform the study of entomology.
His scanner – a SkyScan 1172 – uses microtomography, a non-invasive technique used by the scientific community, especially in the field of medicine, to generate high-resolution images for medical use. Inside the scanner, a small camera takes hundreds of X-ray photographs, mapped together within seconds to produce a 3D image.
“Here there is an X-ray and a camera and the stage starts to rotate slowly, only 0.5 or even less degree each time, so in a scan of 180 degrees it can take so many pictures, and any time that it rotates it takes an X-ray photograph,” explained Alba-Tercedor to Reuters in 2012.
The Professor places the dead arachnid, some of which measure just a few millimeters, on small, lightweight, polystyrene plinths that he cuts himself. The SkyScan program removes the makeshift plinths from the 360-degree images.
“With software, we can cut virtually the insect or the animal or any sample that you can imagine and even you can travel inside. You can go close up,” he said.
Alba-Tercedor believes microtomography will be of enormous help to his students and has incorporated it into his teaching. Alba-Tercedor also enjoys the artistic element of his 3D reconstructions which he accompanies to music when he puts them online. He hopes that allowing young science students to appreciate the inner beauty of insects’ anatomy will help inspire them to follow in his footsteps.
A zoologist for more than three decades, Alba-Tercedor has won numerous awards for his scans.