Seeking Evidence of Soft Tissue & Feathers Using Laser Fluoresence

Utah State Paleontologist Jim Kirkland has shared some photos taken by Tom Kaye during the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology meeting here in Salt Lake City in late October. Tom Kaye has developed a technique using green or violet lasers to stimulated fluorescence in fossil specimens. Fluorescence can reveal details of fossils that are faint or invisible under normal light. If you’re interested in learning more about this technique, Tom Kaye has a scientific poster JPEG image you can read here.

Visible light image of velociraptorine tail.

Jim describes the photos, “During the SVP meeting Tom Kaye played with his laser fluorescence equipment to see how it would work on our dromaeosaur material. This is the tail of an undescribed veloceraptorine from a nearby (10 km due east) contemporaneous site.” Many of our Utahraptor Project supporters will know that Utahraptor is a dromaeosaurine dinosaur. So the tail features in this specimen could help us understand a cousin species like Utahraptor.

Same specimen photographed using laser fluorescence.

Not all fossils fluoresce, and the bones we see so far in the huge Utahraptor block don’t seem to be very fluorescent. However, the bones at the surface of the block may have different properties than ones we will uncover deeper inside. We plan to keep looking for new information using all the tools available.

There are tantalizing details in these photos but we need to look at them very closely before interpreting them. Some of what’s visible could be things like the consolidant and glue chemicals that may have been applied in the field or during preparation.


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