These haunting photos of vertebrate skeletons were created using an ultra-detailed new imaging method

Photo by M. DavisA cleared-and-stained head of a Sloaned Viperfish, a frightening deep-sea predator.

Scientists at the University of Kansas have come up with new ways to capture stunning images of vertebrate skeletons.

Until now, it was common for researchers to “stain” bones with dyes and dissolve the muscle tissue with a cow enzyme to clear most of it.

“The problem we had was we couldn’t pose these animals because we’ve digested away all of the muscles,” said W. Leo Smith, one of the University of Kansas researchers, in a statement. “They’re flaccid and useless, like a pile of clothes that fold in every direction. We wanted the ability to pose them.”

With the new method, scientists can pose the animals in a mix of glycerine and gelatin, which allows them to get better images of body parts that are difficult to capture. Their findings were published in the scientific journal Copeia.

Taking photographs under regular light can blur some of the animals’ features, but the scientists used a dye that produces red fluorescence and makes the skeleton details more pronounced.

Below, take a look at some of the images captured by Smith and his colleagues.


This is a photo of an Orangebanded Stingfish with its lachrymal sabers projecting out.

Photo by Leo Smith

Here, take a look at a fossil from the Chinle Formation of the Lisbon Valley in Utah.

Photo by M. Davis and S. Gibson

Roosterfish, pictured here, is a popular game fish in Mexico.

Photo by M. Girard

A Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker is captured in a head-on photo.

Photo by L. Smith, copyright the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists

This terrifying image is of a North American Least Shrew.

Photo by M. Girard

A Timor Python is placed in a coiled position here.

Photo by M. Girard

The back of a frog can be seen in this image.

Photo by M. Girard

A Four-Horned Poacher, shown here, has a distinctive armour.

Photo by M. Girard and L. Smith

Juvenile lancetfish have enormous fangs.

M. Davis

This is the sucking disc of a shark-sucking remora fish.

Photo by Leo Smith

The Great Barracuda is found in subtropical oceans around the world.

Photo M. Girard

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