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Published: December 14, 2017

Beaver dissection HIGHLIGHTS!

Emily Graslie, Chief Curiosity Correspondent, Brain Scoop

Highlights from our North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) dissection livestream (11/10). Lauren and I skinned this animal for use in our educational collection here at The Field Museum. 

Highlights from our North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) dissection livestream (11/10). Lauren and I skinned this animal for use in our educational collection here at The Field Museum. 

Watch the entire 3.5 hours

FAQs:

1. Where is this specimen from?  -- This specimen has no data associated with it, but likely came from a government agency (like a state Department of Natural Resources, or Fish & Wildlife department), or a wildlife rehabilitation center. Even without knowing exactly where it came from, it is still useful for educational and scientific purposes. 
2. Did you kill it?  -- Nope. This animal was either found dead in the wild, euthanized at a wildlife rehab center, or euthanized by a wildlife pest management agency. Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources has a lot of useful information about beaver populations and their management for landowners. But, there are many instances where collecting animals for research is important, and to be supported. We made a whole video about it for you: "Where'd you get all those dead animals?"

3. What are you doing with it?  -- We will skin the specimen, remove the major muscles and organs, take a tissue sample for DNA research, run the skeleton through our flesh-eating dermestid beetle colony, and finally place the specimen in an educational collection.

4. Why aren't you wearing gloves?   -- This is absolutely up to personal preference, but in my experience wearing gloves negatively impacts my perception of touch to the point I can't feel what I'm doing. Gloves are very slippery inside of a dead animal, and wearing them makes me constantly nervous I'll slip and cut myself. BUT- partway through this preparation I did jab myself with a scalpel on my left middle finger: at that point I carefully cleaned and dressed the cut, and proceeded through the preparation while wearing a glove for safety. It healed well. :)

5. What's that brown, dusty-lookin' stuff?  -- It's sawdust, and is helpful for soaking up blood and other fluids, and creating a textured surface on our hands so we can better grip the specimen during preparation. 
6. Aren't you worried about diseases/bacteria?  -- With some mammals, absolutely. Primates, many carnivores, and animals that are noticeably ill require special precautions during the preparation process. This specimen spent a considerable amount of time (months to years) in an industrial deep freezer, which could kill many of its disease-carrying endo- and ectoparasites. At this time we are not concerned about contracting any zoonotic diseases from the animal. If Lauren or I had open wounds on our hands or ended up cutting ourselves during specimen prep, we do have access to necessary medical services.