Researchers at the University of Dundee are building up an international database of tattoos and piercings to help identify missing people.
The university has launched an appeal for people to send in pictures of their tattoos, piercings and other body modifications.
Staff at the university's Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification say the database could be a vital new tool for forensic experts.
The images will help researchers build an understanding of what kind of body alterations are common in different countries.
They will be looking for designs or styles which are more common in a certain national or regional area.
Professor Sue Black said: "If you look at major incidents such as the Asian tsunami where there are thousands of bodies needing to be identified, investigators are working to narrow down the parameters which can lead to successful identification.
"This includes race, distinctive marks on the body, what clothing and jewellery may be on the body, and so on.
"If we can add body modifications to that list of parameters that allow us to successfully complete this hugely important process of identification then we will have added another major tool to the investigative process.
"'Tattoos and piercings are common all over the world so we want as many people as possible to send us images of their own body modifications."
The research is part of the Dundee centre's part in Interpol's Fastid project - fast and efficient international disaster victim identification.
A website has been set up for people to find out more about the project and send in pictures of their own tattoos, piercings or other body modification. All pictures will be treated confidentially.