if there’s one place you have to go in san francisco, it’s the california academy of science. i LOVE this place. so much to see and learn. this place is like the vancouver aquarium, science world and museum of anthropology all in one. and more impressive too. one could easily spend the whole day here.
especially as they had an exhibition on skulls. the 4,000 square-foot exhibit features 640 skulls – mounted on a 90ft wide “sea of skulls” wall, with video projections, hands-on interactives and a 3D skull viewer.
the most shocking eyebrow-raising, jaw-dropping part? peering into windows where dermestid beetles, also known as, scavenger beetles and carpet beetles were cleaning and eating their way through dead animal carcasses, so that they can eventually become museum-quality specimens.
in that dark, warm environment, the colony can clean the flesh from a small skull in only a few days!
**for the squeamish, you may want to stop right here. for those curious, proceed to PICS below:
according to a displayed sign, this is how to clean a skull, academy-style:
1. many of the specimens come from donations of dead animals found near roads or on beaches.
2. after recording the date, location, measurements and other vital details about each specimen, they remove as much flesh as possible from the head.
3. the skull is frozen (to kill any insects), then thawed it. after which more flesh is removed by hand, the skull is refrigerated to dry it out.
4. the dried skull is placed in the beetle colony, where the flesh-eating beetles eat every last scrap of dried flesh from the bones.
5. once again, they freeze the skull is to remove any remaining beetles, and then briefly soak it to remove any traces of natural oils or dried blood.
6. once clean, catalogued and safely stored, the skull is available for use by scientists from around the world.
well, if that doesn’t give one an appreciation for museum specimens! it was both fascinating and repulsive watching these critters go to work. luckily, i was able to keep my lunch down!
here’s a taste of all the other amazing things at the academy of science:
claude, the albino crocodile, who shares his home with alligator snapping turtles
on the lower level, the world’s deepest living coral display, discovery tidepool where you’re able to touch sea stars and a tunnel where fish and turtle cruise overhead.
rainforests of the world, a 90 foot diameter dome, featuring the rainforest habitats of borneo, madagascar, costa rica and the amazon, including free flying exotic butterflies.
kim and i easily spent 5 hours at the academy of science, including lunch at the cafe. bless her – i’m sure that’s not how she’d like to spend her day off. and i could’ve stayed longer, if it weren’t for the pesky staff ushering us out, as it was closing time.
i was raving about this place to sean and when he does accompany me to california next time, i already warned him that i was going to drag his butt here. because he must see this. and so does everyone who ever loved biology class.
for more pictures of my day at the academy of science, press play on the slideshow or click here for my flickr.