The Study of Shape

What is "morphometrics"?

morphos: shape, or form
metric: measurement

The first thing that anyone notices about a fossil is their shape. The shape of a fossil tells us a great deal about the original organism. The science of morphometrics is the study of the organism's shape, by measuring the organism.

Why measure fossils?

Some of the most informative information we get from fossils is their shape: this fossil is short and squat, whereas that one is tall and skinny, or that one is a neat spiral but this one is straight. Words like "short" or "straight" are descriptive and relative: something is straight relative to something that is less so. We use measurement in an attempt to move the observations we make from the descriptive to a absolute: something isn't just long, it's 28.5 cm long. When we use measurements, we can make more detailed observations, and we can make more precise predictions and tests from our hypothesis.

Show Me! Let Me!