All posts by cfunk

Goldi-beetles and the Three Tanks

Our colony started in a small, 20-gallon fish tank we bought at a $1 per gallon sale at the petshop. We removed the silicon caulk from the corners so the little beetles would not creep their way to freedom. It worked great for months. Our dermestid population slowly grew and we learned to manage specimens.

But then a deceased American Bison came our way and the tank was Too Small.

We upgraded the colony home to a 48”x24”x24” feed trough. Stainless-steel and massive, this tank required only that we seal the welded seam with epoxy – again so the little beetles didn’t climb the weld caulking and escape into the greater world. The beetles liked the bison and their feed trough home a lot and the colony grew. Exploded even. Temperatures rose in the greasy warm frass layer and one day 10 or so of the dermestids felt the urge to flutter. And in glorious freedom they flew to the screening at the top of the feed tank. Which proved to be a poor decision as flying dermestids could become Free Dermestids (not good) and all but a lucky, wingless, few went into the deep freeze. Population bottleneck.

Evidently, the feed trough tank was Too Big.

A few weeks ago Ariel T. found a medium sized, 40-gallon aquarium on the side of the road, only slightly broken. A little epoxy on the cracked glass, a little caulk trimming in the corners, and the dermestid colony has a new home. Big enough for deer parts, small enough to control frass heat, and medium enough to move without carts, banged shins, and angry words.

The dermestids are happy in their new home. It is Just Right.

(Until the campus exterminators discover them, at which point we’ll be running with the tank into the hallways to find a new lab…)

Our unsung hero: the Blowfly

Author: Eric Wülfgang Schultz | August 6, 2015

Dermestid beetles do a wonderful job of skeletal preparation, but their sensitive nature limits their abilities. In the wild, Dermestid beetles are among the last of the insects to visit a body, arriving long after the blowflies have left. Road killed specimens found on a hot July day are unlike to be the pure, maggot free, fare that our dermestids require. The science must move forward however, and specimens must be collected. In this effort, we must rely on our unsung hero the blowfly.

EWS1Our most recent North American Raccoon (Procyon lotor) was found on the afternoon of July 4th 2015. He was a male weighing approximately 20 Lbs. His skeletal condition was good but he was in an advanced decomposition stage and was unable to be processed through our dermestid lab.

EWS2Fortunately, Blowflies are eager to go to work typically visiting the body within hours of death. Our Raccoon was visited by a species of blowfly known as Cynomyopsis cadaverine, the Shiny Bluebottle Fly. We took our raccoon’s measurements on the roadside and performed a minimum of specimen preparation work, removing his fur and internal organs. We placed him in our newly developed fly box.

EWS3After only one week, the flies reduced our specimen to a black liquid and bone. Research is ongoing as to why the fly box encourages the flies to completely breakdown the soft tissues. The current theory is that it retains enough moisture or fats to keep the maggots feeding.

 

After a quick rinse in a strainer, our racoon, who otherwise would have been left on the roadside, was ready to add to our comparative collection.

EWS4

Project Chicken Update

Author: C. Funk | May 29, 2015

The Zooarch Group performed Project Chicken Experiment 3 on April 26, 2015 . The chicken bones went immediately into the dermestid tank and they are cleaned and ready for analysis. We are noting butchery cut mark patterns, burning, and chewing of bones, but the study is focused on the packets of bones produced by individuals selecting, eating, and discarding portions of the cooked chickens.

Chicken 6: butchered.
Chicken 6: butchered.
Project Chicken prep
Chicken 5 minimally butchered.
Experiement 3 called for cooking over open coals and flame.
Experiement 3 called for cooking over open coals and flame.
Washing the Project Chicken bones after processing in the dermestid colony.
Washing the Project Chicken bones after processing in the dermestid colony.
Analyzing the Project Chicken bone packages.
Analyzing the Project Chicken bone packages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bison Skinning

ZAG works together to skin the bison

Author: A. Taivalkoski

This week, April 27, 2015, our dermestid colony is processing the final portion of our American bison (UBZAG-014). Our bison specimen came to us from the Buffalo Zoo last October, when they were obliged to euthanize an elderly animal. I was the only member of the Zooarch Group able to help out at the zoo and here I describe the experience of preparing an entire bison for our osteological collection.

* Warning: images and descriptions depict blood and animal tissue. *

On the day the zoo called about the bison, I walked into what looked like a crime scene. There was blood all over the floor and bloody footprints trailing down the hallway. The veterinarians were performing their necropsy. They gave me a Tyvek suit, some rubber boots, and one of the bison legs (disarticulated from the body) – and told me to start skinning. This bison weighed about 1,400 pounds and my goal was to remove heavy muscle tissue so we wouldn’t have to transport it to the lab at the university.

C. Funk and A. Taivalkoski deflesh a bison leg in the lab
C. Funk and A. Taivalkoski deflesh a bison leg in the lab

Prior to this, the largest animal I’d skinned was a swan – I quickly discovered that skinning large animals can be far more challenging. I had to crouch on the floor to skin and deflesh the leg, and moving around a bison leg that weighed more than 100 pounds was tiring. It took about 6 hours to deflesh two of the legs. While I worked on them, zoo staff disarticulated the rest of the bison and removed much of the muscle tissue so we could more easily move it to the lab.

At the end of the day I took my two defleshed bison legs to the lab freezer at UB. I carefully wrapped them in layers of plastic bags and fit them into my Prius. A few days later, the Zooarch Group used a rented van to transport the rest of the bison.

C.Funk and A. Taivalkoski defleshing bison skull
C.Funk and A. Taivalkoski defleshing bison skull

In early November, the Zooarch Group had a skinning day, where we all got together to skin and remove remaining muscle tissue from the bison. Over three hours, we skinned two more legs, the axial/body portion, and the skull. C.Funk and I skinned and defleshed the skull, although because it was still slightly frozen we were unable to remove the brain and eyes. As we worked on the right front leg, I realized that it was far easier to do in the lab where I could stand at a dissection station. Some of the Zooarch people preferred to use larger skinning knives to deflesh the bison, I found that it was still more comfortable for me to use the scalpel.

J. Howard and D. Poltorak skinning a bison leg
J. Howard and D. Poltorak skinning a bison leg

The first bison elements went into the newly enlarged dermestid tank in December and while we’ve supplemented their diet with other smaller specimens (a fish, Project Chicken bones, a small snake) they’ve mainly been fed bison for the past four months. Next week we’ll learn if they like goose as we process two of our Canada Goose specimens.