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Bit of a long shot, but I figured SOMEONE on this board must

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File: birdyskeleton.jpg (115KB, 612x816px) Image search: [iqdb] [SauceNao] [Google]
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Bit of a long shot, but I figured SOMEONE on this board must have done this before...

Does anyone have any experience with making a skeleton? We're in the middle of extending our house at the moment, and I'm getting a huge study with the extension. I'd love a display piece of two to go alongside my desk, and as I'm a vet student, I really fancy some anatomy.

Now, I've got a couple of plastic anatomy figures, but I drive past road kill on a daily basis: how easy is it to make a real skeleton display? I want to make one for my summer project and was thinking a rabbit/duck (primarily as I can easily pick both of these up at our butchers entire.)

I'm not fussed about any of the gore, more than happy to skin etc, but I'm just curious about the best way to get a skeleton off the carcass/ any good way of articulating it afterwards. Our dissection room at Uni simply boils the carcasses to remove the muscle, but I'm worried that if I boil a rabbit for an extensive period of time that I'll damage some of the more delicate bones. I've also heard about various methods of using chemicals: does anyone have any experience in this field?

I've also heard that sometimes the bones need to be degreased?

Thanks in advance /an!
There was a pretty good vulture culture thread a while back though no instructions on skeleton assembly. I don't know shit myself but I lurk because it seems cool.
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Oh, ta! I didn't see that thread: will go and give it a read now. Hopefully some of the people on that thread are lurking about.

I'm with you that it's pretty cool, we have a dog and a cat skeleton (pick related) in our study rooms at Uni, and they're absolutely fascinating to look at. Some of the smaller skeletons we've got at Uni are absolutely beautiful (for instance we've got a mole and it's paws are amazing.)

There's two parts to your project: cleaning the skeleton and articulating it.

For cleaning it, your best bet is to cultivate a dermestid beetle box. Remember to NEVER try to clean bones in hot water, as it drives the fat/grease into the bones and yellows them. Cleaning the carcass is the annoying and tedious part.

Articulating the skeleton with pins and wires is the fun part. It would help if you got a little rotary tool like a Dremel to make wee holes to run the wires and pins.

Poultry bones, being thinner-walled, are harder to work with than, say, a rabbit or cat or dog.
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I can't see the beetles going down too well here unfortunately!

So, perhaps take the carcass, remove as much muscle as possible and then... cold maceration?

A dremel sounds like a good idea though.
I've done a lot of bone-collecting (I use bones in art) by burying the dead critter in a large flowerpot. Don't let it stay too soggy, but don't let it dry out entirely either or it won't get cleaned. If you leave it in the ground too long, you'll lose bone density and the bones will also absorb mineral stains. But if it isn't an irreplaceable specimen, then you can just try again with another one. Plant some pretty annuals on top and add any earthworms you stumble across. Don't let the pot get too hot or you'll cook the beneficial critters inside who are doing the work for you.

Burying in a pot allows you to recover the bones way easier. If you bury underground, things migrate way more than you'd expect. Also, tunneling critters can damage your specimen. With a flower pot, you can just turn the whole thing out onto a tarp and start gently sifting through the soil. When you bury it, you run a high risk of damaging the specimen when you dig it up. The lever/prying action of lifting the soil out of the hole is really hard on weaker bones.
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Why would you bury it?
I put for example my fox head in the crate and make it bit moist (was completly dry).

Very quickly fly larvae were in the head and they were eating away the flesh. Eventually enough untill i could peel the skin of the fox head.

Pic related how it was when i found it,
Its now completly clean.
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Beetles are the best way to clean a skeleton but I don't have the space/room for them so when I need a full skeleton, I macerate what I have in shallow tub by laying it(the carcass) on it's side or stomach with its limbs spread out. That way the bones mostly stay in the right place and I don't have to make a jigsaw puzzle out of it. Pic related, but it was never finished. I don't remember what I did with it. Whatever was left on it peeled off easily and I would have taken it apart, organized it and scrubbed it up piece by piece.
I jumped to the conclusion that there was some kind of odor/squeamishness factor at work on OP's living situation, with the negatory on the beetles. Figured OP also wouldn't want flies or rotting critter smell.
It doesn't smell if it isnt fresh anymore but but dry and dead.
I assumed he had a garden
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The problem isn't me, but rather the people I live with. I also have three very inquisitive dogs (and not a huge garden).

Burying it is certainly one option, how long would I need to bury it for? Would it be wise to bury it in say a pair of tights to keep the bones together, or would the tights just break down too?


Say I was to buy a fresh rabbit from the butchers, stripped it down as far as I could and then popped it in a tub in the garden shed, do you think it would create much of an odour if I left it to clean naturally?

Sorry, I know this sounds silly, but as much as I don't mind the smell (our disesection room can be dire if our samples have been repeatedly frozen/thawed/refrozen), but my housemate who spends quite a bit of time gardening wouldn't be as keen!

Thank you so much for the help guys! That fox skull at the end looks fantastic. And I'll be sure to lay the skeleton out flat too.
Never tired burying things in tights. That's an interesting idea. I have made little envelope out of fiberglass (rather than metal) insect screen sold on a roll for windows. That worked quite well for very small things like shrews and lizards.

The rabbit in your scenario would be a bit smelly for a week or two. Not sure how to quantify "much of an odour". Also, it depends somewhat on the temperatures and humidity. I'd say try it and if it gets too smelly or someone complains, tip it into your planter/pot and cover it with soil.

I've exhumed after 6 months and had the bones be quite clean, but I've also had carcasses with too much subcutaneous fat that took longer. Depends a lot on where you get the soil from and how wet/dry you keep it. Don't use storebought potting soil, BTW. That's really sterile stuff. Best is healthy soil you've dug up from the edge of the forest. Leaves and stuff too. That way you get a good population of "bugs" (nonscientific term for all the macro and microscopic life forms that will participate in the cleaning of your skeleton) in your soil.
But did you make a skeleton? And maybe pics of your bone collection
and your art piece
Ants, they can get every bit of meat off in the hardest to reach places. Depending on how many ants you got it may be slower, and ants will tend to drag some bones around or even away.

So it really depends
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