Over the past few years we have been developing the application of advanced methods of visualisation and tomography to the analysis of microscopic fossils. Chief among these techniques is the Synchrotron Radiation X-ray Tomographic Microscopy (SRXTM). SRXTM is comparable to Computed Tomography (CT) technology used in hospitals. SRXTM has a number of advantages: scans are volumetric rather than slices series, providing complete characterisation of the study object, at high resolution (down to less than one micron). And because synchrotron light is monochromatic, differences in X-ray attenuation, reflecting differences in physical property of the sample, are preserved in the resulting projections.

We have applied SRXTM to the analysis of variety of microfossils, including fossilised embryos, charcoalified remains of the earliest vascular plants, the earliest seed plants, and the earliest angiosperms, assemblages of the earliest skeletonised animals, and tooth development in the earliest jawed vertebrates.

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The Swiss Light Source at Villigen, Switzerland (courtesy of the Paul Scherrer Institute).

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inside the synchrotron hall (courtesy of the Paul Scherrer Institute).

Our work is conducted at the Swiss Light Source in collaboration with Dr Marco Stampanoni,