|The ICZN and the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi and plants require that every species or subspecies has a type specimen to define its characters. Many were described over a century ago, and with time, collections have been moved or amalgamated, and type specimens can deteriorate or become lost. The project partners, the British Geological Survey, the National Museum Cardiff, the Sedgwick Museum Cambridge, the Oxford Museum of Natural History and the Geological Curators’ Group (representing other national, university and local museums) have collaborated to create an online database of British macrofossil types: www.3d-fossils.ac.uk .
The web portal provides data about each specimen, searchable on taxonomic, stratigraphic and spatial criteria. High resolution photographs, stereo anaglyphs and many 3D digital models are available. The portal is equally accessible to academia and the public, and represents the largest online collection of virtual fossils. It is improving the quality and efficiency of research, reducing unproductive loans and visits, and providing a valuable resource for amateur palaeontologists and the public.
The project has highlighted the problems in combining museum databases – even different implementations of the same product – and hence the need for common schemas and dictionaries. Likewise, the lack of general agreement over file formats necessitated careful consideration of the many available choices. JPEG2000 was selected for images, because of its speed in accessing large files, and .PLY and .OBJ were chosen for 3D digital models - .OBJ because of its flexibility and .PLY because of its relatively small file size.