Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

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Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Belial » Tue Jun 03, 2008 1:59 pm UTC

Dear science forum, chemistry and biology types especially:

Let us say that I have an animal carcass. Let's say it's, at maximum, about twenty pounds, and at minimum it's about small enough to fit in my hand and weighs next to nothing.

And let's say I have absolutely no desire to eat this thing whatsoever. And let's say it's maybe just a little bit decomposed, even, so I don't really have any great desire to strip the meat off it manually. I would never get the smell off my hands.

Is there any compound, process, or easily obtainable/controllable insect that would:

A) strip the flesh off the skeleton
B) not damage, soften, score, pit, discolour, or otherwise alter the bone
C) doesn't require me to touch the uncleaned carcass any more than necessary?

If I were still in New Orleans I would just use fire ant piles, they're amazingly effective, but unfortunately I am not.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Robin S » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:03 pm UTC

Couldn't you just compost it? Decomposition usually proceeds thanks to microbes, and I'm not aware that it particularly damages the inorganic component of the skeleton. If you still want to keep the organic component of the skeleton then there might be a problem.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Belial » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:14 pm UTC

Not interested in having the organic component, no. Planning to use the bones to make jewelery.

Composting is definitely a consideration, but has three major drawbacks. Namely, it takes a longass time, the carcass is liable to be dug out and carried off by passing animals, and I don't have a lot of space in back of my apartment in boston and would prefer not to have it smell like rotting animal for too terribly long.

I'd prefer something quicker and cleaner if at all possible.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Robin S » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:17 pm UTC

Do you have a friend with a garden? You can buy composting bins that will keep out animals, which should take care of two of your problems.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Belial » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:25 pm UTC

Hmm. Actually, there are community garden spaces around boston, and we were going to maybe be getting one of those as well.

It's a thought. Thanks.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby sophyturtle » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:29 pm UTC

You could just boil it. The meat will fall right off with just a couple slices and the bones should be unaffected as ling as you don't boil too long.
Plus it would make the marrow easier to remove, for easy beading.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Velifer » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:59 pm UTC

Dermestid beetles. It's like they were engineered for this sort of thing.
Google them, you'll be overwhelmed with info on tissue-removal goodness.

/off starting creationism thread...
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby taby » Tue Jun 03, 2008 3:27 pm UTC

sophyturtle wrote:You could just boil it. The meat will fall right off with just a couple slices and the bones should be unaffected as ling as you don't boil too long.
Plus it would make the marrow easier to remove, for easy beading.


I agree. Maceration is the way to go. Even room temperature maceration works if you let it go long enough.

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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Belial » Tue Jun 03, 2008 3:39 pm UTC

Plus it would make the marrow easier to remove, for easy beading.


Hmm. How exactly would one remove the marrow without cracking the bones?

Boiling does sound like the best option, if it makes things that simple.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby sgt york » Tue Jun 03, 2008 3:45 pm UTC

Depending on how big the critter is, you can try enzymatic methods. Boil the thing. Let it cool.

Make up this solution:
0.5g/L papain (many meat tenderizers have papain in them. You'll have to check how much)
20g/L NaCl
pH ~8

Add the salt to water and boil the water to sterilize it. Let it cool & add the papain. Now adjust the pH. For the rest of this, try to stay as sterile as you can.

Add 20mL of this solution / g of tissue you have. Keep it hot, ~35-40C and wait about 4-5 days. Monitor th pH, adjust with bicarb as needed. Bones should slip right out.

You can also try lye (NaOH), just be careful. If you let it go very long, the bones will get very brittle.

Oh, and you are one sick, twisted individual (says the guy giving you advice on how to strip flesh from bone).

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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Moo » Tue Jun 03, 2008 3:49 pm UTC

Belial wrote:And let's say I have absolutely no desire to eat this thing whatsoever
Yeah, right, and we're supposed to believe that? :roll:
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Velifer » Tue Jun 03, 2008 4:02 pm UTC

Adding heat will melt the fats, leaving you with yellow, greasy bones.

Museums use dermestid beetles, and museums are places of Science. You wanna be like them, don't you? Don't you?
C'mon, try the bugs... really. Here, the first one's free.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby iamfree » Tue Jun 03, 2008 4:21 pm UTC

pressure/power washer (whatever you want to call it)
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby jtniehof » Tue Jun 03, 2008 4:34 pm UTC

There was a Dirty Jobs episode about this. It...wasn't pretty. (Involved long soak in nasty chemicals, and insects to do the rest of the job, and more nasty chemicals to bleach the bones up nicely.) I wouldn't consider it a kitchen experiment; you may have better success finding someone in the area who does it routinely in their lab or something.

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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby wst » Tue Jun 03, 2008 5:28 pm UTC

Maggots. They only eat dead flesh. Won't eat bone. You'll get files, but not a problem, that's what fly-spray is for. Then you just wash the fly-spray (toxic stuff) off of the bones, and use.

Oh, and they're cheap. Get them from fishing shops in tubs of 50 or something...
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby btilly » Tue Jun 03, 2008 5:34 pm UTC

Velifer wrote:Dermestid beetles. It's like they were engineered for this sort of thing.
Google them, you'll be overwhelmed with info on tissue-removal goodness.

/off starting creationism thread...

When I was growing up I had friends who worked in the local museum, and they used beetles here to take flesh off of bones.

Googling for dermestid beetles, it looks like they are what the museum used.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Cryopyre » Tue Jun 03, 2008 7:41 pm UTC

Well, it seems your problem is solved, however, I will suggest piranhas.

Only because the thought of owning a piranha tank is definitely awesome.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Cryopyre » Tue Jun 03, 2008 8:01 pm UTC

damn you science!
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Belial » Tue Jun 03, 2008 9:32 pm UTC

Velifer wrote:Adding heat will melt the fats, leaving you with yellow, greasy bones.


Fucksauce. I wonder if there's any way to dissolve them off again? Because otherwise, boiling sounds ideal.

Museums use dermestid beetles, and museums are places of Science. You wanna be like them, don't you? Don't you?
C'mon, try the bugs... really. Here, the first one's free.


Would. To tell the truth, I really do like the idea of having my own colony of terrible flesheating beetles. Unfortunately, I don't really have a place to keep a colony that will both stay warm enough in winter, and not make my apartment smell terrible (which I'm sure Meaux, Will, Gmal, Helen, and Girl would not appreciate).

wst wrote:Maggots. They only eat dead flesh. Won't eat bone. You'll get files, but not a problem, that's what fly-spray is for. Then you just wash the fly-spray (toxic stuff) off of the bones, and use.


That's a thought....hmm.

sgt york wrote:Make up this solution:
0.5g/L papain (many meat tenderizers have papain in them. You'll have to check how much)
20g/L NaCl
pH ~8

Add the salt to water and boil the water to sterilize it. Let it cool & add the papain. Now adjust the pH. For the rest of this, try to stay as sterile as you can.

Add 20mL of this solution / g of tissue you have. Keep it hot, ~35-40C and wait about 4-5 days. Monitor th pH, adjust with bicarb as needed. Bones should slip right out.


It's been a long time since high school chemistry. How do I control the PH, and how do I monitor it?

sgt york wrote:You can also try lye (NaOH), just be careful. If you let it go very long, the bones will get very brittle.


Hmm. Any idea where I can get lye?

jtniehof wrote:I wouldn't consider it a kitchen experiment; you may have better success finding someone in the area who does it routinely in their lab or something.


Well, ideally it was going to be a "back patio deck experiment", but yeah, finding someone else to do it for me is my last resort.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby btilly » Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:32 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
Museums use dermestid beetles, and museums are places of Science. You wanna be like them, don't you? Don't you?
C'mon, try the bugs... really. Here, the first one's free.

Would. To tell the truth, I really do like the idea of having my own colony of terrible flesheating beetles. Unfortunately, I don't really have a place to keep a colony that will both stay warm enough in winter, and not make my apartment smell terrible (which I'm sure Meaux, Will, Gmal, Helen, and Girl would not appreciate).

Go talk to a local museum or biology department. You want to find someone who has a colony of dermestid beetles. Anyone who has a colony has the problem of keeping them fed, and you may be able to get them to agree to use their beetles to clean your corpse for you. Which would probably boil down to you drop your corpse off, wait a couple of weeks, pick up your bones.

It is worth a shot at the least.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Mr. Beck » Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:43 pm UTC

My old Biology teacher has a story kinda like this. (Details are foggy, look at general idea.)
A student of hers finds a rotting whale carcass on the beach. Him and his dad lop of the head, chain it to a tree, and trow it in the ocean. A month later, look! Nice & clean whale skull. It hangs from her classroom ceiling now.

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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby justaman » Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:49 pm UTC

My SO did a bit of bone carving at one stage: the beef bones were boiled and then air-dried to retain the natural colour and texture of the bone. I think the trick to getting rid of most of the fat is to strip the bones of as much flesh as possible first, obviously already precluded. To get around this you could boil in water and then wash the bones in a household cleaner with some sort of fat dissolving properties - alkaline solutions are best, and something mild like ammonium hydroxide would probably be ideal.

Chemical methods tend to damage bones, especially acid based ones. Lye (basic) should be OK to use so long as it is not too strong. You can obtain lye from craft shops that sell candle making equipment, or go to your local supermarket and look for a cleaning agent with sodium or potassium hydroxide in it (careful with these, they also contain a whole heap of other things that could damage the bones).
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby clintonius » Wed Jun 04, 2008 3:03 am UTC

Red Devil lye should be pretty widely available -- my friend and I used to buy containers in the cleaning aisle of the grocery store. You can use the leftovers to make hydrogen, too, which is always fun.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby JayDee » Wed Jun 04, 2008 4:59 am UTC

RE: Piranhas
Meteorswarm wrote:Belial would probably not be the type to keep them starved enough for a feeding frenzy.
Actually, I think Belial would be exactly the type... Although, again, you have the time factor.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Jorpho » Wed Jun 04, 2008 5:01 am UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:piranhas are actually mostly vegetarian


Really? I remember being sorely disappointed when visiting the aquarium at the London Zoo many years ago, only to learn that it was mating season for the piranhas and they wouldn't be getting their beef heart that day.

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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Belial » Wed Jun 04, 2008 5:27 am UTC

JayDee wrote:RE: Piranhas
Meteorswarm wrote:Belial would probably not be the type to keep them starved enough for a feeding frenzy.
Actually, I think Belial would be exactly the type... Although, again, you have the time factor.


Aww. You think I would starve cute, adorable fish like those?
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby crowey » Mon Jun 09, 2008 1:54 pm UTC

maybe this is a bit belated...
I work with burying beetles which, like the Dermestids, eat dead flesh.
We breed them on mice carcasses, which are often reduced to just bones. In the wild they will breed on anything up to the size of a badger, several pairs will completely decimate the meat, leaving only hair and bones.

If the logistics would work, I'd happily take your carcasses and de-meat them. However I think you're in the states? That might be a problem.

But, I do have a kind of collaborator in the US who is working on the american burying beetle, they are much larger and I assume that means they'll take on a bigger chunk o' meat. I could get in contact with her if you're up for it?

You could always catch your own nicrophorus, they are really common if you know where to look, and being native to wherever you caught them, you can just set them free when you're done.

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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Belial » Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:04 pm UTC

Hmm. Where in the states?

Also, I didn't mean to imply that I already had carcasses. This is a thing I plan to do somewhat regularly up in Boston, as I feel like developing a craft-y hobby and bone jewelery seems like precisely the thing.

So it's less "I have a couple carcasses laying around that I need demeated" and more "I need to demeat carcasses on a regular basis for a while, sometime in the future"
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby bigglesworth » Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:10 pm UTC

In which case, finding a nearby scientist working on beetles that needs to feed them. You could probably get the bones free.

Boston is full of universities, i'm sure there's be a scientist doing it.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby opsomath » Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:44 pm UTC

Fire ants are a great substitute for the beetles. Just put your dead co-worker critter on the hill. Cover it with a trash can or something to keep the large things which will drag it off to eat at their convenience away.

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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby crowey » Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:45 pm UTC

South Dakota IRRC. Not the most convenient.

http://collections2.eeb.uconn.edu/nicro ... phorus.htm might be of use, there's a big list of people who work with Nicrophorus, I'm sure someone would be willing to help.

Alternatively buy a few japanese beetle traps.
Put some damp soil in the bottom, and a chunk of fish. Hang them in any deciduous woods at about head height. Leave it for a week and you should have some of the right beetles. Once you've got them, get an ice cream tub (or whatever) put some soil in and your meat, chuck in the beetles, put on a lid and leave them for 7-10 days. Once the beetles and their larvae have done their thing you should be left with just bones.
NB-one pair can clear a 10ish gram mouse, so you might need quite a few beetles for anything substantial.

And, like I said, they'll be native, so once you're done you can set them free again :)

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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby zealo » Mon Jun 09, 2008 4:03 pm UTC

whenever i've done something similar (shark jaws) i've just left them on an ants' nestin the backyard for a few days
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Belial » Mon Jun 09, 2008 4:16 pm UTC

opsomath wrote:Fire ants are a great substitute for the beetles. Just put your dead co-worker critter on the hill. Cover it with a trash can or something to keep the large things which will drag it off to eat at their convenience away.


This was my go-to strategy back when I lived somewhere there were fire ants.

Also, crowey, many thanks. I will look into both of those avenues.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby crowey » Mon Jun 09, 2008 4:50 pm UTC

no worries, good luck with it!
:)

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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby opsomath » Mon Jun 09, 2008 5:32 pm UTC

Sorry, missed the "Chicago" thing. I forget, living in Georgia, that some places aren't infested with virulent flesh-eating insects with a venomous bacteria-laced bite.

If you do use lye, be careful; its heat of dissolution can be enough to boil and spatter it. It does not wash off easily due to its forming soapy residues on your skin.

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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby wst » Mon Jun 09, 2008 7:36 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Also, I didn't mean to imply that I already had carcasses. This is a thing I plan to do somewhat regularly up in Boston, as I feel like developing a craft-y hobby and bone jewelery seems like precisely the thing.

That is an awesome hobby idea, btw.
I'll try that this summer. A rabbit head on a chain of ribs... with its lower-jaw hanging slightly below its head. Awesome (dibs on that idea)!
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Xanthir » Wed Jun 11, 2008 11:56 pm UTC

opsomath wrote:Fire ants are a great substitute for the beetles. Just put your dead co-worker critter on the hill. Cover it with a trash can or something to keep the large things which will drag it off to eat at their convenience away.

This. Fire ants are readily available, and they'll strip a carcass just fine. A nearby nature preserve used them to clean the skeleton of a *huge* gar that got caught up in their dam over a long weekend and died. They display it in the visitor center now.

Oh, wait. I see now that you apparently don't live somewhere with fire ants. Lucky you.
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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Boxcar Aldous Huxley » Sat Jun 21, 2008 5:34 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
sgt york wrote:Make up this solution:
0.5g/L papain (many meat tenderizers have papain in them. You'll have to check how much)
20g/L NaCl
pH ~8

Add the salt to water and boil the water to sterilize it. Let it cool & add the papain. Now adjust the pH. For the rest of this, try to stay as sterile as you can.

Add 20mL of this solution / g of tissue you have. Keep it hot, ~35-40C and wait about 4-5 days. Monitor th pH, adjust with bicarb as needed. Bones should slip right out.


It's been a long time since high school chemistry. How do I control the PH, and how do I monitor it?


If you still want to go this route, you can get litmus paper (pH paper) at a garden store, and just follow the directions to measure the pH. There also seem to be electronic pH meters available, from the same sources (but you probably don't have to be that exacting). As for adjusting it, just use sodium bicarbonate (i.e. baking soda) to raise the pH as needed, as sgt york indicated. That is, some bicarbonate at a time until the pH is 8. Don't think you'll ever have to lower the pH, but vinegar should do the trick.

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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby BlackSails » Sat Jun 21, 2008 7:57 pm UTC

In 5th grade we had a class project that involved taking a chicken, removing all the meat, and reconstructing the skeleton. I boiled it, and took off most of the meat by hand, and then used a toothbrush to get the final bits off.


You could try using some trypsin or other digestive enzyme. They break down protiens. You can buy them from any cell biology supply company.

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Re: Getting all this annoying animal off these bones....

Postby Shakes » Mon Jun 23, 2008 10:13 pm UTC

I would agree that carnivorous beetles would be a good (and supremely cool) way to go.

If you choose to go the lye route, lye (Sodium Hydroxide, Cuastic Soda) can be easily purchased from any professional photographic supply store. http://www.photoformulary.com/ comes to mind... Just go to the Store section and you will find Sodium Hydroxide with the Bulk Chemicals. Here, you can also find Sulphic and Hydrochloric acid (...though a DEA liscense is required to purchase all of these... not to hard to get though. Just fill out the form) Just be careful when mixing a solution of Lye because it WILL get very hot (as previously mentioned) and it could possibly boil, depending on the amount of Lye used and the temperature of the water. Add the lye slowly and use cold water to be safe. Oh, and don't get it on your skin... chemicals burns are not fun.

Also, plain old hydrogen peroxide (or the less diluted stuff used for hair treatments) may work as well. I would probably stay away from staight up boiling, however, as boiling a carcass that is most likely well on its way (to being a decomposed mess, that is) will probably smell incredibly awful.

Skeletonization is as cool as the word sounds.


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