Saturday, May 22, 2010


After helping out with a herpetology survey for Natural History Museum today (walking around the park looking for lizards) we were invited to a private tour of the museum's herpetology collection. Fascinating stuff, although a little disturbing, especially for those with weak stomachs (ye be warned!).

The collection is housed in a very modern-looking vault with mobile shelving units, much like the one we had at a film company I used to work for. It saves a lot of space by eliminating the isles - you just move the shelves around to access whichever section you need.

The shelves are filled with jars of all sizes and with randomest things inside them. Like an iguana head.

Or some pickled turtles. Okay, they are not pickled, they are contained in alcohol, which need to be constantly refilled to keep the specimens from um... losing value.

Too bad the alcohol also causes discoloration, so all specimens have almost the same shade of greenish color. The shape, texture and any markings still remain though, and the specimens are in high demand by scientists all over the world and, sometimes, by moviemakers too. The curator told us that there is a special protocol for shipping specimens. I would imagine so.

Alligator vs. crocodile. Yes, they have skeletons, too. And parts of skeletons. Or skeletons without parts...

This iguana skeleton was intact, but the Komodo dragon right next to it was lacking the head.

Gila monster. Dried specimens retain color much better than those preserved in alcohol.

All in all it was very interesting. I still prefer live animals though.