Cleared and Stained Salamander

  • Cleared and Stained Salamander
  • Cleared and Stained Salamander
  • Cleared and Stained Salamander

Scientists sometimes use enzymes and dyes to study animal anatomy and compare relationships among species. Today they also use techniques such as DNA studies and micro-CT scanning, which do not alter or damage unique specimens.


Cleared and Stained Salamander by Edward Stanley

The herpetology collections at the Florida Museum of Natural History contain hundreds of thousands of reptile and amphibian specimens. Most of these are preserved whole in alcohol or as skeletonized material, but some specimens —like this salamander— have been treated with chemicals to turn their bones red, cartilage blue and everything else transparent. This process is known as clearing and staining and has been an important way of looking inside vertebrate specimens for over 100 years. The specimen is kept in glycerine and can be manipulated and moved to see how the bones and cartilage shift around inside the body.

In addition to these time-honored techniques, we are also using new methodologies that allow us to look inside our specimens without having to permanently change them with chemicals. High resolution CT scanning allows us to see bones and cartilage in three dimensions. By staining the animals in iodine before scanning them, we are able to see soft tissues like muscles, blood vessels and nerves. Once the animal has been scanned, we are able to remove the iodine and return the specimen back to its original state.

The Florida Museum of Natural History is part of a multi-institution project that will produce high resolution soft-tissue scans for every family of vertebrates, putting the results online for researchers, educators or any other interested party to view, explore and analyze.

Edward Stanley
Postdoctoral Researcher, Herpetology
Florida Museum of Natural History


Cleared and Stained Salamander (Aneides lugubris)
From Marin Co., California, Mar. 1953

Exhibit Area

Working Lab


Preservation and Preparation

Cleared and Stained SalamanderRadha Krueger