The University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology is developing a website featuring three-dimensional images of mastodons, mammoths and other prehistoric creatures.
Paleontologist Daniel Fisher and his students began digitally scanning the images more than 20 years ago.
But only recently have technological advances enabled the museum to place hundreds of them on the website, called the University of Michigan Online Repository of Fossils. Thousands of 3-D bone models are expected to be added to the site.
Fisher says the site initially was intended to help professionals identify fossils, but also will help students and the general public. Users can manipulate the fossils onscreen as if holding them in their hands.
The tool also will make it less necessary to share fossils with other museums, which carries the risk of damage.