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Formalin fixed specimen to skull

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by michael.granatosky, Feb 12, 2014.

  1. michael.granatosky

    michael.granatosky New Member


    Recently, I was given a rather large collection of formalin (maybe ethanol) fixed specimens. These specimens were prepared in the 80's, so the actually preservative is a mystery to me. Anyway, I am not big on keeping fluid specimens. I was wondering if there was anyway to successfully prepare these to dry bone.

    Any thoughts?

    All the best,

  2. Beetling them is definitely not going to be possible since it'd just kill the bugs even if you could get them to touch it. I'm not sure maceration would kick off with the chemicals, it might kill the bacteria that would otherwise be necessary to clean the bone. But I think honestly, maceration or perhaps oxidization would be your best bet. http://theboneman.com/Oxidization.html again I can't personally vouch for either of these as I've never tried to clean a wet specimen down to bone.

  3. Wouter

    Wouter Member

    Hi Michael,

    For fixated specimens I usually use "L10 maceration fluid", which I buy at a Dutch supplier of taxidermy equipment. It's mainly sodium hydroxide, but with some additional ingredients that prevent bone degradation which occurs when you use a pure sodium hydroxide solution. Actually it does not macerate (rot) the tissue but dissolves it chemically, so it's no problem that bacteria won't eat it. To get a skull clean this way takes 2-3 hours for a fresh specimen, and probably less than 24 hours for a fixated one (also depends on size and how much tissue you cut off beforehand). If you live in Europe you may be able to order this stuff, but they won't ship it by airmail because as an agressive chemical, it would give to much fuss to send.

  4. michael.granatosky

    michael.granatosky New Member

    Hello Wouter and Bluewolfcheetah,

    I appreciate the advice. I live in America so I'm guessing getting L10 maceration fluid might be difficult. Will regular sodium hydroxide still work? Will I have to worry about mixing any chemicals mixing? This same question applies to the oxidation method.

    Thanks again,

  5. AH7

    AH7 New Member

    Where are you located? I've done a bunch of stuff like this and would be happy to help.

    Email me: [email protected]
  6. Baccus

    Baccus Member

    Hi Michael,

    I have run into this issue as well.

    Oxidation works with smaller specimens but tends to be slowed by the preservatives. Chances are that you have formalin preserved animals judging from the age.

    The best thing to do would be to attempt removing as much flesh as possible and soaking the animal in ethanol then a series of water baths. The ethanol will gradually dehydrate the tissue and the repeated water baths will reduce the residual concentration of formalin. Once this is done, I recommend maceration with a small amount of starter fluid from another macerated animal to kick start the project. Beetles will go for some tissue prepared in this way but you might kill the insects and have so issues with them being picky. A soak in ammonia should entice them but start a second colony to protect them in case it turn out to be toxic.

    Macerating preserved animals is more of a pain than fresh ones but it can be done. My first skeleton was a monitor lizard that had been in formalin since the early 80's. I made a lot of mistakes but got a clean specimen in the end. Feel free to PM me with any further questions.

    Best of luck and post pictures when you are done.