May 14, 2014

The bone season

Back in March I found a dead rat on Tooting Common and decided to have a go at cold-water maceration, a process whereby the bones of an animal are stripped by natural bacteria so that the skeleton can be recovered. He's been sitting in a lidded bucket full of water ever since, and I've been checking on his (very smelly) progress.

Yesterday I sieved out the bones and laid them out to dry in the sun. You can see his scapulas (shoulder blades), femurs, tibia and fibulas, humeras, vertebrae and pelvic bones (click here to see how it all fits together). The ribs and the tiny bones of the paws and tail have been lost:

I was hoping to find an intact skull, but at some point during the last few weeks it must have disarticulated. Nevertheless, you can see his upper and lower mandibles, tiny molars and sharp incisors:

The process was considerably smellier than I had expected (and I had expected it to be bad). I would probably think twice about doing it again – I might investigate dermestid beetles next time!