3D Scanning and Morphometrics of bird beaks

Bird bills are incredibly diverse in shape and size. Standard linear measurements (length, depth, width) capture some of this variation but assume are limited number of shapes (essentially variations on a cone). We are using 3D structure white-light and blue-light scanners to quantify shape variation among all of the world’s extant bird species.

The scan data yields point clouds that can include millions of x,y,z coordinates across the surface of the beak. We are using landmarks and sliding semi-landmarks to quantify shape. We will then ask how shape has evolved: what is the tempo and mode of bill evolution, is shape closely linked to feeding ecology, is divergence in bill morphology associated with speciation?

We have created a citizen science project (with HRI Digital) that allows anyone to contribute to landmarking through a crowd-sourcing website (markmybird.org).

Scanning a beak MechLens 2