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Q: Why dissect?
A: Dissection is a valuable tool for visualizing the anatomical structure of different animal classes and species. The mammal specimens that we
offer have similarities that are helpful for showing more about our own human bodies. For example, by dissecting and examining the anatomy of a cow eye, you can learn how your own eye uses a cornea, iris, pupil, connecting muscles and veins, and other features. Other specimens show the uniqueness of their species (such as a dogfish shark or crayfish). We actually learn anatomy more easily through dissections because we are
simultaneously engaging the senses of sight and touch along with analytical thinking at the same time.
Q: What do "single injected'' and "double injected'' mean?
A: Many of our specimens are injected with red and/or blue latex to clearly show the arteries and veins. Single-injected means that just the arteries have been injected with red latex. Double-injected means that in addition the veins have been injected with blue latex.
Q: Do the dissection specimens smell bad?
A: If you did dissections more than 10 years ago, you might remember the terrible formaldehyde smell of preserved specimens.
Things have improved since then! Our
specimens are initially preserved in formaldehyde, but then it's displaced
first with a glycol solution and then with a water solution, so there will be
very little chemical or "preserved" smell. You will smell some of the natural
odor of the specimen such as a fishy smell with the perch or dogfish.
Q: Are dissections hard to do?
A: Dissections vary in time and complexity, but generally a student in junior high or high school will have
enough skill to dissect any specimen that we offer. For elementary level, you
might start with an owl pellet, earthworm, or cow eye. For medium skill level, try dissecting a frog or snake. For more advanced students, do a fetal pig dissection. Plan about 45-60 minutes for a simple dissection, and 90-120 minutes for larger specimens with more complicated anatomy (like a shark or fetal pig). More time will be required if you plan to do in-depth dissections that identify major muscle systems or trace the circulatory system.
Usually all that is required is to indentify the major organs, though.
Q: What tools do I need?
A: The basic dissection tools are a dissection
scissors. You can also use a
teasing needle or
probe to examine delicate parts. Sometimes it's helpful to have multiple scalpels or teasing needles, as you might need a different size or shape depending on different parts of a specimen. You'll also want a
guide to show you how to dissect the specimen.
Q: Do I need to stick these things in the refrigerator?
A: No. The specimens are fully preserved; the only special care you need to
take is to keep them out of direct sunlight or a hot place like an attic. Storage in a closet works well.
Q: Should I wear safety equipment?
A: We do recommend using nitrile or
latex disposable gloves to keep your skin free from contact with trace amounts of chemicals on the specimens. Safety glasses or goggles are also
good precautions as liquids containing trace amounts of chemicals can occasionally squirt out during dissection.
Q: What if I can't finish my dissection during one class period?
A: We recommend sealing the dissected specimen in a ziplock bag to keep it
from drying out too much. Finish the dissection within a week for best
results. If you want the specimen to stay fresh for a longer period of
time, use a heavy-duty plastic ziplock, and add a bit of water or
glycerin to keep it moist.
Q: How do I dispose of a dissected specimen?
A: We recommend sealing the dissected specimen in a ziplock bag and then throwing it away along with the dissection tray (if you used a disposable one). Use a disinfectant soap and water to thoroughly clean
your dissection tools and the area where you worked.