The architecture of fish

How do you study the bones of a creature without destroying it in the process?

Simple enough – you take an x-ray.

In the case of Lynne Parenti and Sandra Raredon, you take thousands of X-rays of fish specimens. Their work is for scientific research, but the results have been so beautiful that they’re now the subject of an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

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Lookdown Fish

Credit: Sandra J. Raredon/National Museum of Natural History/Smithsonian Institution

Arranged in evolutionary sequence, the X-rays give a sense of the long chain of fish evolution. X-rays may also reveal other details of natural history: undigested food or prey in the gut might reveal to an ichthyologist what a fish had for its last meal.

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Winghead shark

Credit: Sandra J. Raredon/National Museum of Natural History/Smithsonian Institution

Not headed to Washington, D.C. anytime soon? No worries – time is on your side. The exhibition, titled “X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out,” will be heading out on a national tour, and is scheduled to make a stop at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona in May of 2014.

h/t NPR

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