For those who might wonder just how the skeletal remains of birds, squirrels and other vertebrate skeletons on display at the Royal Ontario Museum
acquire their gleam, a live webcam will allow a special glimpse into the Museums bug room for the first time. Not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach, and only open to curatorial staff, the bug room is the area in which animal specimens are placed and where a colony of beetles eat their way through animal flesh, revealing clean bones and performing a vital task in the preparation of artifacts for display or storage. ROM website visitors are invited to watch nature in action via a live webcam from the bug room at www.rom.on.ca/schad/insects.php
The bug room is a sealed, metal-lined, climate controlled room where a series of bug species make light work of cleaning skeleton bones. This month the live webcam will show Skin beetles (family Dermestidae) making their way through the flesh of a Golden Eagle discovered in Ontarios Nipissing District and donated to the ROM by the Ministry of Natural Resources. As the room must remain in total darkness to mimic the natural habitat and behavioural patterns of the bugs, the webcam that is being used to capture the bugs in action has infrared capability, resulting in a black and white image.
As part of the preparation for the bug feast, the Golden Eagle was de-feathered, de-skinned, eviscerated and has had most of its muscle mass removed. The beetles, which eat anything organic, including paper, cardboard and wood, will take approximately one month to clean the eagles bones. Once the flesh has disappeared, the bones are removed and soaked in water for a period. The nonbone material is then scraped off with a scalpel, dipped in bleach and then each bone is meticulously numbered. The whole skeleton is catalogued and either put on display or placed amongst the 45,000 other bird specimens in the ROMs vast collection.
This real-time peek into the bug room is part of the ROMs celebration of the diversity of life and nature, an important theme of the Schad Gallery of Biodiversity, which opened on Saturday, May 16, 2009. The new permanent gallery is devoted to exploring our worlds biodiversity and issues affecting its conservation and survival. This innovative and interactive gallery combines seven ecosystem experiences, approximately 2,500 specimens and the Earth Rangers Studio featuring live animal ambassadors to convey an important message about the amazing variety of life on Earth, the interconnectedness of natures amazing web, and each individuals ability to care for the environment.