In a windowless room on the ground floor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, museum specialist Sandra Raredon opens a specimen jar and removes a Notopogon schoteli with forceps. She blots the preservative from the fish, places it on a panel, retreats to the other side of the leaded-wall room, and gives it a shot of 68 kilovolts from the digital x-ray machine mounted above. Seconds later its ghostly image appears on her computer screen. She saves the file to her hard drive and returns the fish to the jar. Raredon then readies a Pegasus draconis for its close-up.
It’s a procedure she’ll repeat again and again to meet her museum’s goal of digitally documenting all 20,000 primary type specimens (preserved specimens that serve to represent particular species) in its Division of Fishes collection, the largest in the world. Despite the prosaic process, the results are anything but.
What has Raredon discovered? Here's a glimpse of a few fascinating details . . .
Read the full article about our latest science exhibition, Ichthyo: The Architecture of Fish, in this month's issue of our biannual newsletter, SITELINE. Want to subscribe?