One Scientist’s Quest to Scan Every Species of Fish
An expert in biomechanics embarks on an ambitious plan to scan and digitize images of every species of fish known to humans—up to 33,000 of them—and learns surprising details along the way.
One day, to better understand how a particular type of eagle ray crushes clams for food, Summers used a computed tomography (CT) scanner to digitize the ray. By meshing X-rays from different angles into a three-dimensional image, the scanner gave Summers a clearer picture of this sea creature's internal structure.
In fact, digitized images offer such valuable insight into biology, behavior, and animal history that Summers’ interest ballooned into an ambitious global project. Beginning earlier this spring, this University of Washington professor set out to scan and digitize all 25,000 to 33,000 fish species on Earth—from the Amazon River's spotfin hatchetfish, to the fringed filefish that hover in western Atlantic Ocean seagrass beds, to the spotted gars found