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We describe the application of a time domain diffuse fluorescence tomography system for whole body small animal imaging. The key features of the system are the use of point excitation in free space using ultrashort laser pulses and noncontact detection using a gated, intensified charge-coupled device (CCD) camera. Mouse shaped epoxy phantoms, with embedded fluorescent inclusions, were used to verify the performance of a recently developed asymptotic lifetime-based tomography algorithm. The asymptotic algorithm is based on a multiexponential analysis of the decay portion of the data. The multiexponential model is shown to enable the use of a global analysis approach for a robust recovery of the lifetime components present within the imaging medium. The surface boundaries of the imaging volume were acquired using a photogrammetric camera integrated with the imaging system, and implemented in a Monte-Carlo model of photon propagation in tissue. The tomography results show that the asymptotic approach is able to separate axially located fluorescent inclusions centered at depths of 4 and 10 mm from the surface of the mouse phantom. The fluorescent inclusions had distinct lifetimes of 0.5 and 0.95 ns. The inclusions were nearly overlapping along the measurement axis and shown to be not resolvable using continuous wave (CW) methods. These results suggest the practical feasibility and advantages of a time domain approach for whole body small animal fluorescence molecular imaging, particularly with the use of lifetime as a contrast mechanism.