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3D birds on internet


The Zoological Museum of the Universiteit van Amsterdam (ZMA), Netherlands, is now presenting 3D images of part of the bird collection on the internet. This is a completely new technology and never before a part of the collection has been presented in this way. The database contains 151 images of 50 species.

By using the mouse, the 3D images can be rotated on the computer screen and in this way the characteristic plumages of the various bird species can be studied from all angles and in different sizes. The images that can be viewed now are the result of a demonstration project in which an efficient method was developed to make photographic images of birds – as if they were the real objects – available for a broad spectrum of interested users. Furthermore, it is no longer necessary to touch and handle the often vulnerable and rare objects. The picture database can be accessed via the website of the Zoological Museum Amsterdam:

The demonstration project was limited to the so-called type specimens in the bird collection of the ZMA. Type specimens are those conserved specimens of animals or plants that are used to formally describe newly discovered species and to publish them in the scientific literature. A type specimen is an internationally acknowledged reference object for the characterization and naming of animal and plant species. For research, but also for issues concerning nature conservation or the regulation of animal trade, type specimens and other specimens in scientific zoological collections like the ZMA are often studied. The 3D images are designed to show the characteristics of the bird species as detailed as possible.

In co-operation with the Dutch node (NLBIF) ( of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) ( and the Expert Center for Taxonomic Identification (ETI) (, 151 objects of 50 bird species and subspecies have been made available for the demonstration project. With a specially designed setup, birds have been digitally photographed from various angles; the images were subsequently processed by computer to create fluently rotating movements of the objects on screen. Sufficient experience with this technology is now available which makes it possible to easily increase the number of available 3D images whenever this is considered useful.

Tineke G. Prins | alfa
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