SVP Workshop


SVP diceCT Workshop: October 13, 2015, 9 AM–Noon, room Pegasus A, Hyatt Regency

Iodine-Enhanced Soft-Tissue Imaging:

An Introductory Workshop for Vertebrate Paleontologists

Co-organizers: P. M. Gignac1*, N. J. Kley2, A. Morhardt3, Z. Li4, and M. Colbert4

The ability to visualize hard tissues (e.g., bone, dentine, enamel) rapidly in three dimensions using X-ray techniques has been one of the most important advancements for vertebrate paleontology in the last half-century. Until recently, however, comparably valuable gains in soft-tissue imaging have been difficult to realize fully due to the inherently low X-ray absorption of non-mineralized tissues. Recent pioneering work in this area has demonstrated that an aqueous solution of Lugol’s iodine (I2KI) is a highly effective agent for rapidly differentiating many types of soft tissues (e.g., epithelial, muscular, and neural structures) in μCT images (Metscher 2009a, b). Across a wide array of vertebrate groups, paleontologists have become a driving force advancing this technique and utilizing the remarkable three-dimensional (3-D) data generated as comprehensive guides for reconstructing soft tissues in fossil forms . Yet, outside of these research groups the technique itself—and how to best to use it for examining questions in deep time—remains fairly obscure.

Given the broad potential for  diceCT imaging to become a major soft-tissue reconstruction tool for paleobiologists, we propose to host a workshop and a symposium at the 2015 SVP meeting in Dallas to exhibit the wide range of questions that can be examined using this toolkit. Our workshop will introduce new users of diceCT to important staining techniques, hardware tools, and available software packages to help produce highly detailed, soft-tissue datasets. Participants will receive an early copy of a “best practices” white paper.

Our goals are for the workshop to set a conceptual foundation for 3-D soft-tissue imaging in modern taxa and for the symposium to demonstrate applications of those data within the inference frameworks we commonly use as paleontologists. Together they will address all aspects of i-e μCT imaging for first time practitioners from specimen preparation, storage, and data collection, to digital reconstruction and measurement, historical inference, and dissemination. We anticipate that i-e μCT will be of great relevance to graduate students in particular, who will have the opportunity to establish their paleontological research programs with a new toolkit for addressing anatomical questions that had previously been limited primarily to hard-tissue structures. Ultimately, we hope to spur developing research programs towards long-term success by demonstrating the remarkable versatility of diceCT for addressing questions of soft-tissue morphology in the vertebrate fossil record.

1Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, Tulsa, OK (

2Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY (

3Department of Biomedical Sciences, Ohio University, Athens, OH (

4Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX (;

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