Have you ever encountered a dead animal? I’m guessing the answer is yes… Did you want to touch it or roll it over? Did you wonder what killed it and how long it had been dead? Did it, even for a split second, cross your mind to take it home to have a closer look? As a biologist, I’ve dissected many animals, but none of those formal dissections compare to the handful of times I’ve been lucky enough to find a dead animal in the wild, or the one time I was lucky enough to witness a necropsy of a beached whale. We found a dead squirrel on the road one day, and I thought “This is a great opportunity for my kids – let’s see what we can learn!” It wasn’t too much more work to set up a way to share it more broadly. So… if you like to be reminded of the fact that we’re all animals, if you just like to see how we’re put together on the inside, if you want to be part of discussions about physiology, evolution, ecology, ethics, and whatever else these dissections provoke… you’ve come to the right place.
I’ve intentionally chosen a playful name as a way to capture and preserve the child-like curiosity we need to work so hard to preserve. Please note that all animals died by other means (mostly roadkill) and that none were killed for the purpose of these dissections.
If you find the images and videos objectionable in any way, please feel free to let me know.
November 8, 2013: I’ve just completed our first streaming event from the new dissection lab! It has been a long time coming, but I’m now set up to stream dissections via U-Stream from a permanent set-up in our basement. I’m looking forward to tackling the list of necessary improvements uncovered in the first event – better lighting, ISP with faster upload, better camera mount… The next dissection will either be a chicken or squirrel. Both are waiting in the freezer. Stay tuned!!
The raccoon we dissected was a great stimulus for conversation about evolution, ecology, urbanization of animal habitats, and the ethics of animal necropsies for education. You can find the video in the Poke the Dead Thing Library.
On February 11, 2012, a 3-year-old Puget Sound L pod orca known as Sooke (L-112) was found dead on the shore at Long Beach, WA. While this is a tragic event for Sooke and her pod, it was also an opportunity for us to be reminded of our common mammalian origins and to hopefully shed some light on the reason behind her death. Our thanks to Scott Veirs of Beam Reach, Joe Gaydos of the SeaDoc Society, the Whale Museum, and Friday Harbor Labs for helping to turn this loss into an opportunity to share our love of anatomy and physiology. For more information about L-112 and possible causes of her death, go to this post at the Beam Reach blog.