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’Netting’ a big collection of fish

BioPhotonics
May 2006
Lynn Savage, Features Editor, lynn.savage@photonics.com

The Keck Center for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging is getting together with Scripps Institution of Oceanography to make available to the public — via the Internet — the latter’s world-class collection of fish.


Two views of the sanguine (or bloody) frogfish (Antennarius sanguineus), a bottom-dwelling angler fish of the eastern Pacific, show how layers of a specimen can be removed. Images courtesy of the Digital Fish Library.


Under a grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers at the two affiliates of the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla will use the center’s MRI equipment to create high-resolution, three-dimensional images of the samples from the institution’s Marine Vertebrate Collection. The collection comprises 2 million specimens — or nearly 90 percent of all 482 known families of fish. The MRI equipment includes a pair of 3.0-T units supplied by GE Healthcare that provide 100-μm resolution.


Fish in the database — here Galapagos batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini) can be virtually dissected without harming the original sample.


Because they must account for the ways that fish differ from human subjects in size, shape and tissue characterization, the researchers must build specialized MRI coils that accommodate various aquatic specimens. This optimization, according to the center’s associate director for biomedical applications and the project’s principal investigator, Lawrence Frank, could lead to improvements in MRI technology.


A false-color image of the Island kelpfish (Alloclinus holderi) depicts the animal’s major organs.


The $2.5 million Digital Fish Library grant, which spans five years, should result in online access to MRI data and images representing at least one member of each fish family and a virtual dissection tool to be made available to high school students. The database is available at www.digitalfishlibrary.org.


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