CT scanning is a nondestructive technology that bombards a specimen with X-rays from every angle, creating thousands of snapshots that a computer stitches together into a detailed 3-D visual replica. The image can be virtually dissected, layer by layer, to expose cross sections and internal structures. The scans allow scientists to view a specimen inside and out -- its skeleton, muscles, internal organs, parasites, even its stomach contents -- without touching a scalpel. Advances in understanding the structure, function and evolution of genes and genomes have outpaced phenomics -- the study of how genes interact with the environment to produce physical traits, or phenotypes. With virtual access to specimens, researchers can peel away the skin of a passenger pigeon to glimpse its circulatory system, a class of third-graders could determine a copperhead's last meal, undergraduate students could 3-D print and compare skulls across a range of frog species and a veterinarian could prepare for surgery on a giraffe at a zoo.
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