Ever wanted to see what’s inside a beaver, or learn how specimens are prepared for museum collections? Well here’s your chance!
Over at The Brain Scoop, Emily Graslie and Lauren Smith did a live dissection of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis). It’s like a Magic School Bus trip into a beaver, but with more blood and guts.
This isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you have a strong stomach, it’s a fascinating chance to see something rare. In the UK, there’s not any opportunity to see this kind of thing below university level, and even then, not much.
Emily and Lauren cover the process of collecting and preparing specimens for the collection, the skinning of the beaver, the dismemberment, and information about the beaver’s anatomy and ecology. They talk about how they use beetles to completely clean the flesh off the bones. They take plenty of questions from the audience (online and meatspace), too.
My highlights were the specialised aspects of the beaver’s anatomy, like the castor glands, where we get castoreum, and the beavers tail, teeth and cheek muscles. One of the post-docs at the Field Museum pops in to explain his research into the beaver’s powerful cheek muscles, a fascinating interlude. You also get to see an intact mesentery; part of the internal sac called the peritoneum, which enfolds your abdominal organs and keeps them in place.
It’s a long video but well worth a watch, so long as you’re not squeamish.
The Brain Scoop channel is also worth checking out if you’re interested in natural history. There’s hours of fascinating viewing there, from other dissections (a whole wolf!) to interviews with scientists about their research and loads and loads of natural history.