“Bill shape is potentially really important in the development of bird species,” said Thomas. “We want to address that idea for all birds.” 3-D scans provide more information about curvature, ridges, and special features than traditional measurements, but it’s time consuming. His team has been scanning bird beaks found in collections at natural history museums around the world for almost a year and has scanned the bills of about 4,500 species. They expect to spend at least another year scanning. Once they are done, the scans still need to have humans to properly mark them for the computer analysis that will quantify their shape. If the team was on their own, it would take them years to get through the pile.