Scan, extract, wrap, compute: a 3D method to analyse morphological shape differences

Martin Horstmann*, Alexander T. Topham, Petra Stamm, Sebastian Kruppert, John K. Colbourne, Ralph Tollrian, Linda C. Weiss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
169 Downloads (Pure)


Quantitative analysis of shape and form is critical in many biological disciplines, as context-dependent morphotypes reflect changes in gene expression and physiology, e.g., in comparisons of environment-dependent phenotypes, forward/reverse genetic assays or shape development during ontogenesis. 3D-shape rendering methods produce models with arbitrarily numbered, and therefore non-comparable, mesh points. However, this prevents direct comparisons. We introduce a workflow that allows the generation of comparable 3D models based on several specimens. Translocations between points of modelled morphotypes are plotted as heat maps and statistically tested. With this workflow, we are able to detect, model and investigate the significance of shape and form alterations in all spatial dimensions, demonstrated with different morphotypes of the pond-dwelling microcrustacean Daphnia. Furthermore, it allows the detection even of inconspicuous morphological features that can be exported to programs for subsequent analysis, e.g., streamline- or finite-element analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4861
Number of pages20
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2018


  • 3D morphological comparison
  • 3D morphology
  • Confidence ellipsoids
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Daphnia
  • Landmark-rare shapes
  • Shape and form analysis
  • Visualisation of shape alteration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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