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Opportunities and challenges for digital morphology

Alexander Ziegler1*, Malte Ogurreck2, Thomas Steinke3, Felix Beckmann2, Steffen Prohaska3 and Andreas Ziegler1

Author Affiliations

1 Institut für Immungenetik, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Freie Universität Berlin, Thielallee 73, 14195 Berlin, Germany

2 GKSS-Forschungszentrum Geesthacht, Institut für Werkstoffforschung, Max-Planck-Strasse 1, 21502 Geesthacht, Germany

3 Zuse Institute Berlin, Takustrasse 7, 14195 Berlin, Germany

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Biology Direct 2010, 5:45  doi:10.1186/1745-6150-5-45

Published: 6 July 2010


Advances in digital data acquisition, analysis, and storage have revolutionized the work in many biological disciplines such as genomics, molecular phylogenetics, and structural biology, but have not yet found satisfactory acceptance in morphology. Improvements in non-invasive imaging and three-dimensional visualization techniques, however, permit high-throughput analyses also of whole biological specimens, including museum material. These developments pave the way towards a digital era in morphology. Using sea urchins (Echinodermata: Echinoidea), we provide examples illustrating the power of these techniques. However, remote visualization, the creation of a specialized database, and the implementation of standardized, world-wide accepted data deposition practices prior to publication are essential to cope with the foreseeable exponential increase in digital morphological data.


This article was reviewed by Marc D. Sutton (nominated by Stephan Beck), Gonzalo Giribet (nominated by Lutz Walter), and Lennart Olsson (nominated by Purificación López-García).