London’s Grant Museum of Zoology has turned to 3-D printing to help it reconstruct rare and extinct species’ skeletons.
Recently, museum director Jack Ashby used the technology to complete the skeleton of a quagga, one of the rarest zoological specimens on the planet.
The animal is a subspecies of the zebra from South Africa that was hunted to extinction during the 19th century. Only seven (partial) quagga skeletons remain in the world. The zebra/ horse hybrid looking animal’s bones are one the of the museum’s most treasured exhibits.
While the quagga had been standing on three legs, Mr. Ashby’s new printed left hind leg allowed it to be fully reconstructed for the first time.
Mr. Ashby called in the Royal Veterinary College and the Bartlett Manufacturing and Design Exchange at University College London’s School of Architecture to fashion the new leg, as the website 3ders.org noted.
“Not only does it add a fantastic chapter to a specimen with so many stories, but the new leg also makes the whole skeleton more stable,” Mr. Ashby told the site. “Try balancing on three legs for 100 years.”
Now, the techniques may be applicable to other specimens. The museum recently embarked on the so-called Bone Idols project, where it endeavors to reconstruct 39 incomplete skeletons (including a dodo!) through either recovering the original fossil or 3-D printing.