Posted by: Matt Brandley | August 8, 2010

From roadkill to specimen

Here on Curaçao, we unfortunately encounter quite a few roadkilled iguanas (Iguana iguana).  That this species is listed as CITES II makes this especially tragic, so the least I could do is preserve it for Science.  Therefore, if I run across a specimen in reasonably good shape (i.e., not a pile of lizard goo), I collect it, take DNA, and preserve it for a museum.  The problem is that these specimens may be sitting out in the road for a few hours and can become rather… ripe.  In this case, they don’t preserve well in formaldehyde so I prep them for skeletonization.  To do this, I have to remove the skin, organs, and as much meat as possible.   During this process, I take a tissue sample for DNA.  After that, I dry out the carcass into lizard jerky as quickly as possible so flies, birds, and other interested parties don’t eat it.  Eventually, we’ll take it back to the U.S. (with CITES documentation, of course) and give it to dermestid beetles that eat the rest of the meat leaving a nice, clean skeleton.

If any thrash metal bands are reading this, I suggest “Prepped for Skeletonization” for your next album title (cover art below).

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