Seal Skeletons - Anatomical Connections

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Source: http://www.zeehondencreche.nl

Fur Seal Facts

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Source: http://courses.washington.edu

Fore limb

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Source: http://courses.washington.edu

Hind limb

Watch this page as we excavate an Fur Seal skeleton from a very dried up carcass... we hope, eventually, to arrange the bones in an exploded skeleton on the floor.

Along the way we will discover some interesting bone shapes and adaptations connecting the seal with its environment. Excavating bones can be a messy and smelly business if the carcass has not completely decayed.

Luckily for us, our seal has been dead for a very long time and dried out completely and mummified by the wind,salt and sun - the downside is that the skin has become extremely tough and the bones are very difficult to remove...

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The Seal skeleton in situ amongst the rocks at Blackhead Beach

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The skeleton workstation ready for bone extraction

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Sean and Kyron beginning the extraction...

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Scissors and cutting pliers are needed to cut through the dessicated skin...

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Tearing ligaments to remove the bones required a very strong pull...

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It's not as easy as it looks...

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The bones were soaked for several dweeks in washing powder and water. The

enzymes in the washing powder help to break down any remaining flesh.

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Cleaned bones - the beginning of our collection...

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Four weeks of cold water masceration and our bones are beginning to look

clean.

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The leathery flipper skin is taking a long time to break down. We have decided

to try and speed up the process by burying the now partially decomposed

flippers in a tub of sheep manure. The organisms in the manure will help to

eat the flesh off the bones...

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To prepare the flippers for burial we first double-wrapped them with plastic netting.

We wrapped them separately so the bones don't become muddled once the flesh

has been eaten. Next we wrapped them in wire netting for additional support,

before burying them in a tub of manure.

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A new load of mascerated bones, rinsed in clean water and dried in the sun...

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Vertebrae, whiskers, the segmented sternum and some teeth...

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Repositioning teeth in the lower jaw bone...

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Matching a bone from the segmented sternum with the pinniped bone guide.

To order bone guides visit the Boneman here

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The collection is getting larger...the flippers are still to come...

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The flippers are ready after 10 weeks decomposing in the sheep manure...

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After a bit of a rinse to get rid of excess manure, time to unwrap the flippers.

The wire netting is removed...

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Unrolling the plastic netting to check the state of the flippers...

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Fantastic! Decomposition is complete. The bones are extremely easy to remove...

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Rinsing the bones...

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The flipper bones drying (front and mid-left of the photo)...

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Meanwhile, Rebecca's team continues cleaning the segmented sternum and the

vertebrae... we're very nearly done!

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Laurie working out the order of the vertebrae and threading them onto a wire.

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Blake fitting teeth into the upper and lower jaws - there are quite a few teeth

missing...

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Ruby-May and Willow mapping out the rib cage and matching
the order of the sternum segments with the bone guide.
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Beginning the rib attachments... the smooth alignment of the ribs is proving difficult.
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Willow is using the glue as cartilage between each rib-to-vertebra join.


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Who is Jake?

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Click on the picture to meet Jake, the Bone Collector

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Click on the picture to learn EVERYTHING about cleaning bones.

Jake's Tips for Bone Cleaning:


BONE CLEANING CHOICES

  • Biological washing powder

  • Hydrogen Peroxide (Danger!)

  • Burial

  • Natural decay above ground (takes a long time)

  • Cold water (masceration). Very smelly!

  • Hot water



    NEVER USE:

  • Bleach - it damages the surface of the bones.

  • Boiling water - it thins any fat left on the bones. The fat soaks into the bones and discolours them.