Methods Applied to Orsten Fossils: 3D Reconstructions / 3D Modelling

Clay models

Already in 1987 Dieter had started to use 3D modelling as an addition to his drawings and also to facilitate interaction with his illustrator in Bonn. The first paper, in which this was presented was the work on Bredocaris admirabilis. In this paper Klaus and Dieter show a plasticine model Dieter had created. It was 40 cm large and a half model. This could be used to make not only nice shots and even macro photographs (e.g. of the mouth area) but also to produce serial images by progressively changing the orientation of limbs, so simulating movements. And by combination of tilted images it was possible to produce complete views even of oblique angles.

Making of 3D model using Blender

Blender is a complex program available for both platforms, APPLE MacIntosh and PC.

Blender is not easy to learn, not very intuitive and requires fast computers and a three-button mouse. The manual and instructions about special features are more than big, the learning curve is, therefore, steep. Still interested people are now invited to visit the Blender website and learn more about the program and its capacities. Many, sometimes breath-taking pictures document the quality of program and its users. It's worth it! Here just one image from this site, depicting the famous Fiat Cinquecento (500). I chose it because I had three of them (which also tells a bit about my age) and can add a photograph of an original specimen.


Of course, we cannot offer a training programme, we don’t even want to explain the features of Blender. Our intention is to give you an idea of how we made our models. This demonstration of actual work might inspire you to find similar own applications / uses.

All started with our collaborator Martin, at that time still doctorate student in our section. Martin’s work on Oelandocaris (for more information on this form click here), continued in Uppsala, Sweden, his new work place, culminated in a QuickTime™ movie showing an animal that swims nicely by metachronal beat of its appendages. Joachim then started to use Blender last fall. Remarkably, using a different mode of getting into the software led also to a different way of shaping the models. It seems that everyone has a different taste what tools to prefer.

Besides the two stem crustaceans Goticaris and Cambropachycope and their larval stages (for more information on these forms click here), Joachim developed models of an eurypterid, of a Cambrian round-worm larva (see running projects ) and of an extant predatory water flea (cladoceran), Bythotrephes (note: you can underlay an image and built the model on top of it to retain proportionality and a maximum of detail if wished). Currently he’s working on the larval cycle of Henningsmoenicaris, of which he could distinguish more than nine successive stages (for more information on this form click here).


Our little intro shows the reconstruction of a biramous crustacean limb, better a post-antennular limb of a stem crustacean such as Goticaris.

Start: You open a new worksheet in Blender and choose a shape that suits best to your final object, here a brick.


The final result on the right can then be fused with a body, cloned, modified, whatever. Or colourized. I did this, however, in Photoshop, just to show the effect.

And here two movies by Joachim:

One is the living predatory water flea Bythotrephis, which occurs in our lakes, and the other is Goticaris longispinosa from the Orsten, also that small and possibly having a similar life style. 

Have fun, and it would be great to see your results once or any other response that helps us too to improve our capabilities.


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