Animated Holographic Archaeopteryx

Brendan Body

Research output: Other contribution


Animated Holographic Archaeopteryx examined and conveys new insights and understanding of the movement of Archaeopteryx in animated holographic form. Achieved through careful observation, analysis, and re-rendering of a fossil. While this type of reverse engineering has previously been deployed by Paleo artists to help visualise what a fossil remain might have looked like, the focus of this research was to determine and convey the movement of the animal prior to fossilisation through these technologies.

The exhibition, ‘Harmonious Complexity’ (2017), marked the centenary of renowned zoologist D’Arcy Thompson and focussed on the history of his book, On Growth and Form (1917), featuring unique specimens from the collections at the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews. Supported by grant funding from Museums Galleries Scotland for this exhibition, Body worked with a cast of the Berlin Specimen of Archaeopteryx from the collections of the D’Arcy Thompson Museum, Dundee. This fossil is the earliest known descendant of birds and represents a bridge that reveals the transition and evolutionary link between non-avian dinosaurs to birds; and the question of how this creature moved directly informs the understanding of this link.

Body developed the methodology, by scanning the fossil and forensically analysing the specific measurements of the skeletal frame, undertaking research into living bird movement in relation to the Archaeopteryx, and analysing how tail length impacts on the centre of gravity and leg posture. Additional research with the XROMM machine enabled the analysis of x-rays of living animals as they moved. Initially, animated gif’s of the Archaeopteryx moving were shared via social media as a means of generating dialogue and feedback with leading specialists in the field. The findings were then developed into the animated hologram within a specially designed display unit for the exhibition and further disseminated via conference papers, scientific articles and national press.
Original languageEnglish
TypeMulti Component Output
PublisherUniversity of Dundee
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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  • Animation Talk

    Brendan Body (Speaker)

    1 Feb 2019

    Activity: Other activity typesPublic engagement and outreach - public lecture/debate/seminar

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