We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

New Way to Image Skeletons Helps Research, Looks Creepy

This image of a shrew looks like something out of a horror movie.

By Ernie Mastroianni
Mar 12, 2019 5:00 PMDec 20, 2019 10:10 PM
Creepy Shrew Skeleton - Girard
(Credit: M. Girard)


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

To create this portrait of the North American least shrew, University of Kansas evolutionary biologist W. Leo Smith developed a novel imaging technique that better reveals detail in preserved specimens. Smith discovered that the dye Alizarin, long used by biologists as a staining agent, fluoresces under certain kinds of light, glowing, he says, like a Grateful Dead poster. By staining a specimen’s bones, shining a high-energy blue light and then filtering out everything except the dye’s fluorescence, researchers can examine minute skeletal details without the need for dissection. Smith also helped develop a way to pose the animals in a non-destructive gelatin mixture, allowing for more lifelike arrangements of skeletal and soft tissue — and better photos. 

[This story originally appeared in print as "Shrew in a New Light."]

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.