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Skinning for articulation

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by Trouble_667, Jun 2, 2015.

  1. So I've recently been acquiring specimens to articulate as entire whole frozen animals. The problem I'm running into is that it seems like most people either Skin a carcass for the skin, or skin it for the skeleton, but with smaller animals it seems supremely difficult to do both! Almost all the videos I've seen on rodents and such has people just clipping the wrists and ankles and leaving the bones in the skin. I've tried skinning a few hands and feet out to the end digits on some squirrels, but I'm not having much luck even with a nice sharp scalpel blade it still seems too difficult to do without running the hands/feet. Am I really out of luck here, or am I just lacking in the dissection skills necessary to do it correctly? And don't even get me started on reptiles! Sheesh, the skin stays on the skull too tightly, and the hands/feet are even worse! So far, numerous rats, squirrels, and even a paca have proven disastrous as far as being able to save their entire skins. >.< Is there a size cut-off where it no longer becomes reasonable to be able to get both the skin and skeleton?
  2. akvz

    akvz New Member

    Lizards you're not going to have much luck with; the skin and skull are almost inseparable without damaging the skin or the skull in some way.

    You might ask the people in the lifesize mammals how they skin out their squirrels, marmots, etc.-- I don't have much experience with them compared to larger (and easier) animals like cats, but it may be as simple as scaling down your scalpel size. Scalpels come in a variety of sizes and shapes so you should probably experiment and see if you can't find something to work for you. I would think a baby rabbit or large rat would be at the extreme end of the spectrum and you would then be increasingly unable to save one or the other.

    I will say, though: You can't have the claws on both. You either include the claws on the skin and have a full mount, or you keep the claws with the skeleton and the feet for the mount look incomplete... because they are. You might consider casting a set of claws if you want to have a complete specimen in both forms.

  3. Voltrax

    Voltrax New Member

    As Akvz said: No no for both, but you should skin the head with ease.
    Had such problem with claws, Taxidermist took the claws with skin, and I had to order new set from US for my porcupine.
  4. Biologists* came up with a somewhat inelegant solution to this dilemma many years ago. Ideally you will have multiple specimens so you can prepare some as skins and others as complete skeletons. But if it's a rare specimen then you leave the feet with the skin on one side of the animal and keep them with the skeleton on the other side. I'm not sure this would work very well for display purposes because you would have to find a way to hide the missing feet.

    *Hafner, D. J., Hafner, J. C. and Hafner, M. S. 1984. Skin-Plus-Skeleton Preparation As the Standard Mammalian Museum Specimen. Curator: The Museum Journal, 27: 141–145.
  5. Here's a list of solutions to retrieve as many bones as possible for different animals:

    Birds: skull & feet can be casted and used for mount (same with wing bones - they can be extracted if a bird is large enough)
    1)Snakes - skinning is relatively easy, tip of nose and tail in smaller snakes can be tricky.
    2)Lizards - regardless of size, feet can be turned inside-out completely up to ends of fingers, then skin separated at claw base.
    Claws remain on skeleton, then keratine layer is separated from bone (by maceration) and attached to mount. Head is skinned easily (be careful to not scratch the skull or rip the skin), except plated lizards and skinks (they require head casting, also their feet cannot be turned without cuts)
    3)Crocodiles: feet can be turned and claws separated as in lizards (easier with smaller ones), heads should be casted. In very small crocs, getting the last tail vertebrae is nearly impossible.
    4)Chelonians: feet can be turned & claws separated, head & shell should be casted.
    Ungulates: hooves can be casted for a mount, since retrieving all finger bones without damaging the hooves can be problematic. Head is skinned differently, so the horns/antlers stay on the skull, and replicas used for mount.
    Armadillos: theoretically, you can mount the skeleton without shell, skinning the head & tail might be hard.
    Bats: well... no way to extract finger bones of wings, feet can be turned in larger species.
    Cetaceans: why mounting them? Replicas look way better. Make photos & measurements (as with fish) so a more realistic replica could be produced, and build the skeleton!
    Other mammals (rodent/lagomorph/insectivore/marsupial/carnivore/primate): turning the feet is easy (I successfully done this even with pygmy marmoset!), just be careful to not tear or cut through the skin. Feet can't be turned completely only in really, really small specimens (mice, shrews). Horny feet pads (e.g. in agouti) should be skinned latarelly, at inner side of leg.