Micro-CT in Paleontology: Imaging Fossils, Prehistoric Teeth and Bones

An overview of how micro-CT (3D X-ray imaging) can be used in paleontology, to study the internal micro-structure of bones, teeth, fossils and more.

Blue Scientific is the official Nordic distributor for Bruker Micro-CT in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. For more information or quotes, please get in touch.

Bruker Micro-CT range

More about Micro-CT

 Contact us on +44 (0)1223 422 269 or info@blue-scientific.com


What is Micro-CT?

Micro-CT is a non-destructive 3D imaging and analysis technique. It can be used to examine the internal structure of a huge variety of samples, including these in paleontology:

  • Bones
  • Fossils
  • Rocks and geological samples
  • Archeological artefacts
  • Teeth and dental samples
  • Prehistoric insects preserved in amber / resin

Micro-CT (micro computed tomography) is 3D X-ray imaging, using the same method as hospital CT scans, but on a smaller scale with dramatically increased resolution. The results represent 3D microscopy, revealing the internal structures of objects at a very fine scale.

When X-rays pass through an object, the intensity is reduced by absorption proportional to the average atomic number along the trajectory. By taking projection images at multiple rotation angles, the full 3D information can be acquired slice by slice. Computed tomography reconstructs the entire 3D volume.


Micro-CT is a non-destructive technique, with no sample preparation, staining or thin slicing. This makes it ideal for prehistoric artefacts, as you can examine the internal micro-structure in 3D, without damaging or altering the sample itself.

Fossils in rock
Micro-CT scan of fossils in limestone rock.

Bruker SkyScan 1273

The Bruker SkyScan 1273 can accommodate large and heavy samples, making it ideal for paleontology. You can study whole bones and fossils, and even whole prehistoric human skulls.

  • Sample size: Up to 300mm wide and 500mm high
  • Weight: Up to 20kg
  • Field of view: 250mm in diameter and 250mm high

Scanning samples of this size would typically require a large floor-standing system. However the SkyScan 1273 is a benchtop instrument that requires only a standard domestic power plug – no extra compressor, water supply or chiller. This also keeps running costs down.

More about the SkyScan 1273…

Scan large and heavy samples

Scan Whole Skulls

Due to its capacity for large samples, the SkyScan 1273 can scan whole skulls of any human, including prehistoric Neanderthal skulls:

Neanderthal Skull - Micro-CT Scan
Neanderthal skull - Micro-CT 3D Scan
Still from a video micro-CT rendering of a Neanderthal skull


You can view and analyse the internal microstructure of teeth, mandibles and all kinds of dental samples from humans, dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures.

Mandible and teeth of a Saxon child (still from a video)
Microtomography Scan of a Tooth

Insects in Amber/Resin

Take virtual flights around and through your sample, as well as virtual cuts and slices. The image below is a still from a video of a 30 million year old spider preserved in amber. Contact us if you’d like to see the whole video.

Micro-CT scan of a prehistoric spider
30 million year old spider preserved in amber (1.4µm pixel size)

Scientific Papers

Take a look at these papers for examples of how microtomography has been used by other researchers and institutes:

More Information

If you’d like to see more examples please get in touch – we have lots more available!

Blue Scientific is the official distributor of Bruker Micro-CT in the Nordic region. We’re available to provide quotes and answer all your questions – just get in touch:

 Contact us on +44 (0)1223 422 269 or info@blue-scientific.com

More about Micro-CT

Bruker Micro-CT scanners