We might spend our days trying to ignore thoughts of our death and transient fleshy existence, but the science of death is inseparable from the science of life – and just as interesting! In this Halloween special from Deep Look, we take a look at flesh-eating beetles, decomposition and the art of preserving dead animals.
The video peers into the "Library of Life" in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. In a bid to catalogue, understand and preserve the world’s vertebrate inhabitants, the museum collects taxidermied animals and skeletons. As part of the process, they skin the deceased animals and then use flesh-eating dermestid beetles to speed up the decomposition process. These beetles are known for their ability to strip a carcass in days, but they also enjoy munching down on books, carpets and floorboards.
Like a bizarre and somewhat creepy family business, the beetles used in the process today are descendants from the original colony used by the museum in 1924.