Autofluorescence imaging, an excellent tool for comparative morphology

Joachim T. Haug, Carolin Haug, Verena Kutschera, Gerd Mayer, Andreas Maas, Stefan Liebau, Christopher Castellani, Uwe Wolfram, Euan N. K. Clarkson, Dieter Waloszek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Citations (SciVal)


Here we present a set of methods for documenting (exo-)morphology by applying autofluorescence imaging. For arthropods, but also for other taxa, autofluorescence imaging combined with composite imaging is a fast documentation method with high-resolution capacities. Compared to conventional micro- and macrophotography, the illumination is much more homogenous, and structures are often better contrasted. Applying different wavelengths to the same object can additionally be used to enhance distinct structures. Autofluorescence imaging can be applied to dried and embedded specimens, but also directly on specimens within their storage liquid. This has an enormous potential for the documentation of rare specimens and especially type specimens without the need of preparation. Also for various fossils, autofluorescence can be used to enhance the contrast between the fossil and the matrix significantly, making even smallest details visible. 'Life-colour' fluorescence especially is identified as a technique with great potential. It provides additional information for which otherwise more complex methods would have to be applied. The complete range of differences and variations between fluorescence macrophotography and different types of fluorescence microscopy techniques are here explored and evaluated in detail. Also future improvements are suggested. In summary, autofluorescence imaging is a powerful, easy and fast-to-apply tool for morphological studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-272
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Microscopy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • Autofluorescence imaging
  • Autofluorescence microscopy
  • Composite imaging
  • Fluorescence macrophotography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Histology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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