The process of separating small vertebrate fossils from sediment is a monotonous exercise, usually carried out manually and mainly based on morphological features. The large amount of time and personnel required results in the high economic costs associated with this antiquated technique. In this study we test the potential of colour and multispectral imaging for the detection of small vertebrate fossils to facilitate their separation from sediment. This technique is based on the analysis of the spectral and fluorescence characteristics of fossils. Specifically, a multispectral system with a charge-coupled device (CCD) camera attached to a liquid crystal tunable filter and a digital colour camera was used in combination with daylight and ultraviolet light sources. The results show that the reflectance of bones, teeth and sediment are usually different at longer wavelengths, and that fluorescence rates also differ in the bluegreen region. Unfortunately, samples from different paleontological sites present different patterns, hindering the standardization of a method that discriminates microfossils from sediments. However, the combination of colour and multispectral imaging systems with recent advances in laser-stimulated fluorescence in fossils could constitute an optimal solution for an efficient sorting process of small vertebrate remains within geological samples.
- Fossil separation system
- Multispectral systems