The CVM anatomy lab is chocked full of models, including full-sized llama and horse skeletons, several cow rumen, and, of course, a stuffed beaver in an orange bandana. Many of the models were constructed by students.
This year, some of the models assigned by Dr. Fikru Nigussie, Associate Professor of anatomy, were a bit different; they required movable parts and paint.
Dr. Nigussie is creating a display of the limbs of many different animals, so students Ben Ulrich and Laura Macintyre constructed dog, cat and cougar limb skeletons, then painted each bone a different color and labeled it with a number.
“Carpal and tarsal bones are really complicated and can vary between species,” says Ulrich. “Dr. Nigussie wanted a comparative limb display where you can look across the species, and the colors correlate to specific bones. The beetles are still working on horse, cow, sheep and goat limbs.”
Many of the skeletons that students assemble for use in the anatomy lab arrive as loose pieces in a box ordered from a supplier, but the limbs for the new comparative display arrived as meat. Rachael Cunningham took on the task of turning them into clean bones.
“We set up a colony of beetles in a wooden box, with a grate at the bottom where the bedding is; that’s where they live and hang out,” she says. “It seals tightly, and has a filter and fan at one end. Beetles are pretty particular about the temp they live in; you have to keep them cool in the summer, and warm in the winter, in order to keep them alive.”
Once Cunningham placed a leg in the box, it took about three weeks for the bugs to strip it. “Before I put the specimens in with the beetles, I would dissect off as much tissue as I could,” says Cunningham. “But there is still a lot of stuff around the joint, and really close to the bone, that is very difficult to remove. The beetle’s job was to clean up everything I couldn’t get off.” When the beetles are done, the bones come out of the box looking dirty, so Cunningham’s last step was to soak the bones in hydrogen peroxide to make them white.