Crocs Uncover

Bizarre Species

lunes, 8 de junio de 2009

Dead Animals

im Patton walks to a cabinet and pulls open a drawer. Out slide two neat rows of chipmunks, impeccably preserved. Officious handwritten tags tell the story of each and every animal’s capture. In a screwtop container on the tray, a half-dozen chipmunk skulls rattle, picked clean of all their tissue by a beetle colony housed downstairs

Patton is director emeritus of UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and he clearly relishes guiding people through the bewilderingly and impressive collection. The MVZ is a premiere research institution with a broad, deep set of well-preserved specimens ranging from tiny shrews to huge bears.But, don’t pack your bags for California just yet, though, the MVZ is not open to the public.

But this video is the next best thing. Wired Science takes you on a behind-the-scenes tour of this amazing instituion. You’ll visit the bone room and the fur room, where the big mammals are kept. You’ll see capybara furs, komodo dragon skins, and whale skulls.

We were more than content to just stare at the wonder of biodiversity, but scientists use the specimens to provide baselines for environmental contamination by testing the amount of lead, say, in a wolverine’s skin. By comparing it with modern samples, they can determine how much humans have mucked up the biosphere.

They can even extract genetic material and analyze how ecological change has affected the genetic diversity of many types of mammals. Of course, when some of the specimens were collected, the technology necessary to do those experiments wasn’t even on the horizon. With that in mind, Patton and his team tried to future-proof the new specimens they bring into the museum.

“One of the goals of maintaining a collection like this is to maintain as much as you can,” Patton said, “not just for the purpose that it can be used today but trying to anticipate what purposes it might be used for as techniques become available in the future.”

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