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Old 16-08-2010, 11:09 PM
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Default Snake skeleton project - Practice #1

WARNING: THIS THREAD CONTAINS GRAPHIC PICTURES
They are bloomin' interesting though .


Well hey,

I've been getting ready to start this project for a while now and in the last week it all seems to have come together at last.
In brief, over the summer for a project i will be attempting to prepare and articulate the skeleton of several snakes.
Im 17 and looking to apply for a veterinary medicine or zoology course in a years time so this another thing i can put on my applications to show my interest and passion for the subject; it really does fascinate me.

Im going to be keeping a bit of a blog of how its going on here so other people who are interested can check how im doing. At the end ill be able to look back and evaluate how it went.

Skip down to the pics now if you just want to see how im doing at the mo, or have a read here to see how im going to do it.

Method
This is roughly what i will be doing, a couple of practices first where i will learn the best methods and get used to the routine, then I will attempt a final piece to get it perfect.

1.) Skinning - The snake will need to be skinned fully, possibly leaving out the head as it is very delicate and is made up of a large number of small fragile bones.
2.) Dissection - Ill be doing a dissection of each snake before i chuck the guts away, just to get a good knowledge of the anatomy, this is the smelly part!
3.) Gutting - Removing all the organs possibly leaving the head incase of damage.
4.) Drying - The cacass will need to be dried to a suitable level before it can be added to the beetles
5.) BEETLES! - The carcass will be added to my newly arrived colony of flesh eating dermestid beetles. These are carnivourous beetles that will strip bone clean of fat, flesh and tissue whilst leaving the bones perfectly intact.
6.) Wiring - The skeleton will need to be wired and glued into the position i want.
7.) Degreasing - A number of chemicals will be used to remove the fat that has soaked into the bones during the process. This fat can slowly sleep out after several years and leave the skull looking yellow/black and smelly.
8.) Whitening - The skeleton will be bleached and whitened to the required level before being mounted.

Easy peasy aye?

Practice #1 - Royal python
Body kindly donated by: anonymous, thanks.
Cause of death: Respiritory infection.

This is my first snake dissection so i will just see how it goes really.

Step 1 was the dissection and skinning, here is the snake at the start.
I'm naff at morphs but its either a lesser platty or ghost im guessing.


I started by cutting directly down the belly from the neck to the vent:

The skin was very difficult to remove as with all boids there is a thick layer of muscle connecting it to the ribs. I cut it back to the vertebrae and left it there for the dissection.

My dissection wasn't great really, it was more of a having a look around as it was my first. This picture shows the large left lung - the big red blob, the gall bladder, the heart and the huge amounts of fat reserves down both sides:

And the heat can be seen clearly in the middle here, the big blue/red muscle:


Step 3 was the gutting and this was a lot easier than i expected. I basically peeled the inner layer of membrane away from the ribcage and all of the internal organs came away together:


I cut these away which left me with the ribcage with the head and tail still with organs inside.

I then had to refreeze it as i ran out of time and continued today.

Step 4 was finishing the skinning which was very difficult. There is only a minute layer of muscle between the top of the vertebrae and the skin, i wanted to get the skin off in one piece ideally but without damaging the back bones. This process took around an hour in total as i just worked my way down slowly with my knife. This was the final product:




The next step is drying out the meat. Dermestid beetles feed best when the majority of the moisture has evapourated from a carcass. Dampness in a colony can attract mites and other pests which can destroy a colony.
To dry out the carcass i have placed it in a rub with a fan over the top and will leave it overnight.

Here is my beetle tub which i will put a test piece of ribcage into tomorow:

There are around 1000 beetles/large larvae in there. I ordered 2000 but the silly american man could not read or count so im in the process of negotiating with him. To give a rough idea of how fast these things can clean, a colony of 5000 beetles operating well can clean a large cow or bear head in 24 hours if the majority of flesh has been removed. The polystyrene and carboard are for the larvae to burrow into to pupate, they then emerge as beetles and can breed. The substrate is a little woodchip which they were packed in plus what people call frass; a mixture of poo, shed skins and little bits of chewed up meat. The beetles lay their eggs in it.

Ill leave it there for tonight, the carcass should be dry by the morning and it will then have to be refrozen to kill off any fly eggs, then placed into the beetles . Ill update with progress when there is any.

Eddy
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Last edited by eddygecko; 16-08-2010 at 11:14 PM..
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Old 16-08-2010, 11:16 PM
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Great thread here, looking like a really professional job. What are you planning to do with the skin, its beautiful.

Edit- I'm doing zoology and I LOVE IT, you won't be disappointed if that is what you choose to do.
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Old 16-08-2010, 11:17 PM
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Keep us updated
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Old 16-08-2010, 11:30 PM
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Fascinating. Keep us informed.
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Old 16-08-2010, 11:32 PM
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Great thread, am looking forward to each step.

I love snake autopsies, I learn so much about the way they operate. They truely are amazing creatures.

What did the snake die of? If u didn't know, would u have been able to esablish the reason from the work uv done so far?
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Old 16-08-2010, 11:37 PM
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Very fascinating, and it looks like you're doing a top notch job...There was some other guy on here doing this some time back, but we never got to see the results...I'm not sure if I should put a classified up for deceased reptiles though.
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Old 16-08-2010, 11:37 PM
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It's a lesser by the looks of it, and a lovely skin at that.

I will be interested to see the finished product, have always wanted a snake skull for display.
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Old 16-08-2010, 11:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eddygecko View Post
[SIZE=5]Im 17 and looking to apply for a veterinary medicine or zoology course in a years time so this another thing i can put on my applications to show my interest and passion for the subject; it really does fascinate me.
I've done one and doing the other subject, so get in touch if you want to chat about choosing!

Really interesting thread - looking forward to the updates!
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Old 16-08-2010, 11:41 PM
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very cool mate

however from looking at the royal i'd say you need a vet ASAP
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Old 16-08-2010, 11:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SexyBear77 View Post
Great thread here, looking like a really professional job. What are you planning to do with the skin, its beautiful.

Edit- I'm doing zoology and I LOVE IT, you won't be disappointed if that is what you choose to do.
Cool, where are you studying?
I'm not sure exactly what ill do with the skin, itll need to be treated and still has a layer of fat on it at the mo. The treating process can be just as long winded as doing the skeleton. I may just mount it and display it alongside the skeleton at the end, or cover a notebook, make a keyring, give me ideas



Quote:
Originally Posted by caffers1982 View Post
Great thread, am looking forward to each step.

I love snake autopsies, I learn so much about the way they operate. They truely are amazing creatures.

What did the snake die of? If u didn't know, would u have been able to esablish the reason from the work uv done so far?
The snake died of a resparitory infection, the only place this is evident is in the mouth where there is a large amount of thick mucus. The rest of the body seemed healthy but i had nothing to compare it with. I think if i had taken the respiritory system apart carefully they may have been more signs and mucus but i didn't go into that much detail for the first one.
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