“It’s basically the same games that glow in the dark,” said Matt Davis, a professor of biology at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota who co-authored the paper. “The principle is the same. The light is absorbed and then emitted again.” (Platypuses, flying squirrels, sea turtles, and other animals are naturally glowing.)
The great thing about fluorescent images, according to Smith, is that certain properties of a study object can be clearly distinguished from one another. This allows researchers to pay attention to details that they previously ignored or could not see.
The portion of the method that involves using gelatin has been revised by Chesney Buck, who works as a volunteer at Smith’s lab, and Matt Girard, who is attending a PhD with Smith at the University of Kansas. Gerrard says all kinds of new possibilities arose when the dye-treated study materials were placed in gelatin.
“If you can actually move something, hold a pair of forceps, or hold and move it with your hand, then you can see the connection between the different bones,” he says. “Or you can see if there is anything behind the bone. This is not the case with humans, but animals often have layers of bone.”
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