Komodo Dragon Preparation, Step Two: To the Bug Cave! I mean, Bug ROOM

Posted: December 12, 2012 - 15:31 , by Nicole Richards
Behind-the-scenes, Biodiversity, Collections | Comments () | Comment
A close-up of the Komodo Dragon head before preparation of the speciman began

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Images depict a Komodo Dragon being dissected as it is prepared for the ROM's collections.

Our Komodo Dragon, the newest addition to the Life in Crisis: Schad Gallery of Biodiversity is ready for the next stage in the process of becoming a museum specimen - the Bug Room.

There are tales of a dark, dusty place in the basement of the ROM where bugs are worshipped for their amazing ability to strip a bone of all of its flesh. Those tales are true. Well, sort of. There is a bug room here at the ROM, and while we don’t exactly worship the Hide Beetles (Dermestes maculates) that inhabit it we are very appreciative of the important labour-saving job they do.

Once the skin was removed from the Komodo Dragon there was still a lot of work to be done to clean the bones. If a skeleton is to be displayed at a museum it must have all of the soft tissue removed. If not removed completely, this tissue will decompose - clearly not something visitors would appreciate. In addition, it would also attract the type of insects that like to eat collections - clearly not something the museum would appreciate. 

However, it turns out the beetles can be a little fussy. Reptiles are NOT their favourite meal and if the tissue starts to dry out they like it even less. We gave the beetles a hand by removing the organs and a large amount of muscle before giving them the Komodo Dragon.

The Komodo Dragon Skull at various stages in the Bug Room

The skeleton was then placed into the Bug Room and we waited for nature to take its course. We waited a very long time! It took over four months before we were satisfied that the beetles had done all they were going to do. It’s amazing what something so small can accomplish.

In the end, the bones still needed some cleaning by hand. However, our job was certainly made easier by thousands of beetles that had a way of getting into all the nooks and crannies of our large Komodo Dragon.

Holding a series of nearly-clean Komodo Dragon vertebrae after over 4 months in the Bug Room