Thousands of prehistoric fossils have been rescued from dusty museum archives and made available online by the British Geological Survey as highly detailed 3-D models.

Researchers and the public can now access almost 20,000 virtual fossils and print 3-D replicas. There are also plans in the works to digitally scan dinosaur fossils.

Dr. Mike Howe, chief curator at the British Geological Survey, oversaw the large task of scanning and photographing almost every fossil type found in Britain.

"Nobody has attempted to put out for the public and for the whole academic community a large collection of 3-D fossil models, so this is the first one worldwide that has ever been attempted," he said.