Mammals - Policies

Destructive and consumptive sampling policy

The Division of Mammals has received an increasing number of requests for destructive sampling of specimens in our care. Some examples of such requests include excising "small" pieces of skin from specimens for biochemical studies, sectioning of teeth and bone, sputter-coating specimens (or parts of specimens) for SEM use, dissections of fluid-preserved specimens for anatomical studies, and plucking hairs for specific studies or general reference collections. In general, we regard any sampling that would alter the integrity of the specimen as destructive, and we permit such activity only when it is demonstrated to be strongly justified.

When deciding whether to grant permission to carry out destructive sampling on specimens in our care we evaluate a number of criteria. To permit fullest consideration of your request, we ask the investigator to:

  1. Provide a brief description of the project and why destructive sampling of our specimens is necessary.
  2. Demonstrate that the techniques being used have been successful and that the investigator is proficient in such techniques.
  3. Demonstrate that other institutions (including other natural history collections and zoos) have been approached for material, and why newly collected samples from the field are impractical.
  4. In the event that permission is granted, return material to us, if requested. Examples of such returns include purified or amplified DNA aliquots, slides of sectioned teeth or tissue, cleared and stained glans, or mounted hairs.

Requests for skin samples to be used in biochemical studies involve additional issues. Specific concerns, in addition to the ones listed above include:

  1. Is the amount of material being requested sufficient for the technique? Can a smaller piece be used?
  2. Can material such as cartilage or tissue left on the underside of the skin be used instead of skin itself? Can material from fluid preserved specimens be used, given that most of these have been preserved in formalin for at least a few days?

Even after you have satisfied the above criteria, we may still deny permission to conduct destructive sampling on specimens in our care. These decisions are made to best conserve specimens that grow ever more indispensable as natural populations of various mammalian species continue to disappear. Thank you for your cooperation.

In effect since 27 January 1995