Preparing a 3-dimensional skeleton reconstruction of a specimen of the Triassic theropod Coelophysis bauri

Describes a process, mostly using wax, to make three-dimensional skeletal replicas from casts of a crushed specimen of Coelophysis.

Item Details


A freestanding skeletal mount was produced from typically crushed and distorted specimen of Coelophysis bauri from a block removed from the Ghost Ranch Quarry of New Mexico and currently housed in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

The procedure for creating the reconstruction was as follows: 1) Special open-faced or half-molds were fabricated for each side of the fossil specimen. 2) A wax-based compound was then injected at a high-temperature into the half-mold which, when solidified, formed a preliminary working cast. The wax retains a workable degree of plasticity and allows the cast to be reshaped to correct for deformation in the original fossil material. 3) The individual working casts were then assembled to form a reasonable approximation of the skeleton in life. 4) This assembled set of working casts were then recast in a more durable compound to be used in museum displays and functional studies. The advantages of this procedure over more conventional methods are that it avoids damage to the fossil material, reduces the amount of freehand modeling with its concomitant inaccuracies, can be completed relatively quickly, and retains a greater fidelity to the original material.