Applications of X-Ray Microscopy for Beetle Studies

Micro-CT imaging is highly effective for the comprehensive study of internal structures and skeletal elements of beetles, and is important for research in biological and chemical pest control, food and food storage, the protection of fiber crops, pharmaceuticals, epidemiology, and environmental studies. Beetles are the largest insect order, with Tribolium castaneum as the first species with a completely sequenced genome; beetles may now be new candidates for model organisms in various studies. Micro-CT is a key tool for future research on beetles for study of the functioning of insect organisms as well as for insights for biomedical applications, environmental monitoring, and food production. 
Micro-CT volume rendering of a frontal detailed view of the beetle Cerosterna pollinosa.

How the micro-CT helped the visual effects industry to win an Oscar in Hollywood: The case of the animated beetles appearing in the film Blade Runner 2049

Micro-CT provides a deeper understanding of the detailed internal and external morphology and mechanical properties of beetles. An unusual application involved a collaboration between the University of Granada in Spain for Micro-CT scans and the visual effects industry to create animated morphs of real beetles for the film Blade Runner 2049. The film earned the Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 2018. To accomplish this, the animators had to “recreate extremely detailed and photo-realistic models, with micrometric details, such as microscopic hair or the detail of the facets of their eyes, of real beetle specimens.” This paper summarizes the process, from the micro-CT scans and volume-rendered images of beetles to the final animations.

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The first fossil immature of Elmidae: an unusual riffle beetle larva preserved in Baltic amber

This study demonstrates applications of micro-CT in paleantology and evolutionary science. The first fossil larva of Elmidae is documented here, preserved in Baltic amber. “To be able to access details of the body hidden by inclusions and ‘Verlumung’”, the sample’s morphology was studied with optical, X-ray micro-CT, and synchrotron micro-CT documentation methods. “Based on comparison with extant forms we conclude that the larva is a fossil representative of Elmidae, making this a first record of a fossil larva of this group.We further discuss implications of this find.”

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Exploring miniature insect brains using micro-CT scanning techniques

“The capacity to explore soft tissue structures in detail is important in understanding animal physiology and how this determines features such as movement, behaviour and the impact of trauma on regular function.” This study demonstrates a method for accurate imaging and exploration of insect brains that keeps brain tissue free from trauma and in its natural stereo-geometry, illustrated with 3D reconstructions and analyses of 19 individual brains at high resolution. “Development of this protocol allows relatively rapid and cost effective brain reconstructions, making it an accessible methodology to the wider scientific community. The protocol describes the necessary steps for sample preparation, tissue staining, micro-CT scanning and 3D reconstruction, followed by a method for image analysis.”

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Micro CT study of soft/elastic structures of beetle toward insect-inspired robotics

The authors propose a new framework for making insect-inspired robots using high resolution X-ray microtomography. The micro-CT data provides 3D information on the complex structure of the animal bodies in micrometer resolution. Scans were done of rhinoceros beetles (Trypoxy-lus dichotomus) to reveal its musculoskeletal system, flapping mechanism, wing veins, and multi-segment limbs. Cross-sectional images enabled identification of the flight muscles and joint mechanism. The 3D reconstruction of the micro-CT data is used to replicate the insect body with additive manufacturing techniques. Micro-CT studies of insects “enhance a further understanding of biological systems and development of bio-inspired robots.”

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Microscopic Examination of a Beetle

Learn more about how micro-CT is used for Phenotyping Research and Zoology Research.

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