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rojo's avatar

How do you skeletonize small mammals/rodents to preserve the skeleton?

Asked by rojo (14792 points ) September 10th, 2013

Just looking for ideas. My grandaughter and I found a dead bat and a dead mole in the swimming pool this morning and since she was willing, in fact asked to hold them, I would to preserve the skeletons for her and see if we can foster an interest in science.
Ants maybe? Boiling? Anyone done this before? Any suggestions?

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15 Answers

rojo's avatar

Yes, we washed our hands after handling them.

Coloma's avatar

You can buy carrion beetles online somewhere. My daughter wanted to skeletonize some creatures remains and make jewelry with their bones. We are both animal/nature/science nuts and so your idea does not seem strange in the least. I think it’s a great idea!

Google “Where to purchase carrion beetles” and I know all you need is a plastic container, a heat lamp ( for the colder weather ) a carcass, and a little time for the critters to do their work.

GoldieAV16's avatar

I have buried a small animal, and later dug it up for the skeleton. Just remember where you buried it, and be very careful digging it up.

syz's avatar

Ant hills are wonderful for this, but because the bones are so small, you’ll need to make a wire cage with fine enough mesh that the ants can get in to remove the flesh, but can’t drag the bones away.

snowberry's avatar

Most likely the ants wouldn’t drag away the bones, but other animals might. Good idea about the ant hill. The cage needs to be strong enough to withstand the efforts of a coyote, or some such animal.

glacial's avatar

Some good advice here, including a handy chart. :)

Cupcake's avatar

@glacial Holy crap… that kid is incredible.

gailcalled's avatar

Years ago my son had to buy a chicken and skeletonize it for a 7th grade science project. He boiled the thing in water, just the way one makes chicken soup, in a stock pot of mine. Then he picked off all the skin, meat and other soft tissue.

When the bones were fairly clean, he reboiled the bones with white vinegar.. Eventually the bones were picked clean and he was able to reassemble the skeleton in an anatomically correct manner. My stock pot never recovered.

Bat broth probably doesn’t have the same aroma as chicken stock, however. Leave all windows open.

Cupcake's avatar

@Coloma I’m a city cupcake, so please pardon my complete ignorance. What do you do with the beetles when they’ve eaten the soft bits?

glacial's avatar

@Cupcake I wondered the same, and this probably has something to do with Jake’s warning about not making your own beetle tank…

YARNLADY's avatar

@Cupcake @glacial Give them to the zoo or a pet store to feed the other animals.

Coloma's avatar

I’m not sure…usually people keep them for ongoing projects. Hunters use them to clean their trophy heads. gak! I know many species are abundant so I would assume, depending on ones geographics and the species you might be able to set them free, if they are a naive species.

Coloma's avatar

NATIVE species. lol

rojo's avatar

Yes, WE are the naive species.

Coloma's avatar

^^^ LOL

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