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Beetles

Flesh-Eating Dermestid Beetles Are On Staff At Many Museums

Dermestids have a life cycle that lasts from 2 to 3 months, during which they hatch as a larva from an egg laid on dead tissue, consume the tissue, and mature into an adult beetle. These colonies are valuable to museums and taxidermists who maintain them as a way to clean flesh from specimen skeletons in a process called skeletonization. The beetles eat efficiently, and will leave fragile components of even the smallest skeletons intact. They're also used in forensic investigations by wildlife law enforcement agencies.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. The scientists at UC Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology receive hundreds of carcasses every year that they preserve. 00:45

  2. To remove a carcass's flesh without damaging the bone, some museum preparators rely on flesh-eating beetles. 01:03

  3. Dermestid beetles can pick a carcass clean while leaving the most delicate bone structures intact. 01:49

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