Friday, January 22, 2010

Study Skin Preparation - making a REAL stuffed animal

***WARNING*** ***GRAPHIC IMAGES***
This post contains images of a mouse being skinned for educational purposes

I had a fantastic lab today! In my Science and Museums class we're learning about how natural history museums operate and the importance of specimens. So today we learned how to correctly prepare study skins - of mice.

We each started with a freshly (and humanely) killed lab mouse. I picked a girl. Isn't she cute?

Click "read more" only if you're prepared to see the rest of the photos!

The first incision was made in the abdomen, careful to cut only through the skin... it's trickier than it sounds. Had to separate the hind legs at the knee, and cut away to the base of the tail. Pulling out the tail was much tougher than I thought it would be - took me about 15 minutes of struggling before I got to this point:Then I worked on undressing the rest of the mouse.It was a long and careful process - a small mouse has lots of delicate features. Finally, the skin was fully separated with no mishaps. In case you ever wanted to know what a naked mouse looks like, here you go.The resulting skin was rubbed in borax to dry it out and help with preservation.Turned it inside out, and voila, I had a finger puppet!And then for my favorite part, the stuffing and sewing. My sewing skills definitely came in handy here - it was a no brainer for me to work the stuffing to create the right shapes, though it was certainly tricky with such a small and delicate specimen. Wires were inserted into the limbs and tail.Admiring my work...Finally the mouse had to be pinned, and a label affixed. We'll get to take our mice home when they dry out completely.While this was fun and I learned a lot, it makes me quite glad I work with insects! Pinning a beetle is much less time consuming than preparing a rodent.

33 comments:

Noadi said...

I know in my head it's a lab mouse and has been raised in a clean environment. Seeing you handling the skin without gloves though, kinda icks me out. Very cool result, bet you had one of the best sewn mice in the class.

Toni said...

I was kinda squicked at the naked mouse but then let out a very loud laugh at the finger puppet photo! Interesting post, you are a brave seamstress.

Insect Art said...

As a Wildlife Rehabilitator, I often have to removed the "skin, bones, and guts" from mice to feed certain raptors whose bodies can't yet handle those extras. One time, one of us tried to "tan" the hide of one of the mice, but apparently a snake ate it out of her basement before it was done! We always wondered what would be the proper way to do this.....so thanks! hehe....

GW said...

I saw an instructable or some such tutorial showing how to do this, but your version is much better -- and funny!

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