Diaphonization is the art/science of staining the bones and cartilage in a wet specimen. The process was first developed in 1977 by the scientists Dingerkus and Uhler, who originally called it “clearing and staining”. The “clearing” part was making the specimen clear by bathing it in trypsin, a digestive enzyme that slowly breaks down the flesh. The specimen is then soaked in multiple batches of bone, cartilage, and/or muscle dyes (the “staining”). The most common dyes are alizarin red and alcian blue. Alcian blue stains cartilage, alizarin red stains bone, and muscle is stained purple.
Diaphonization is almost always used on small specimens under one foot in length because the process takes such a long time. A large rat could take up to six months to complete. Amphibians, fish, and reptiles are particularly suited to this process because their tissues are usually too delicate to be dissected. Using diaphonization on these species is the best way to look at their inner structures without changing or harming them.
We have one diaphonized specimen in our collection so far that we’ll be posting soon!
I gave this ostrich skull to M as a Christmas present this past year. He loves ostriches and even wants a farm full of them one day.
Ostriches are large, flightless birds native to Africa. They are the largest species of bird still alive today and also lay the largest eggs. They can run up to 43 mph, the fastest land speed of any bird.
They can weigh anywhere from 139-320 lbs, and the males grow to be between 6’11” and 9’2″ while the females are from 5’7″ to 6’7″. Their lifespan is up to 40-45 years.
Ostriches are also known for their very large eyes- they have largest eyes of any land vertebrate, measuring 2 inches in diameter.
It is a myth that ostriches hide their heads in the sand when they feel threatened. They actually either lay flat on the ground to blend in with their surroundings or they will attack if they feel threatened enough. They can kick very powerfully with their legs, so much so that they can disembowel and kill a person with their long claws in a single blow.
An ostrich skull with a detached lower jaw is the biggest skull in our collection.
Size: 7.5″ long x 3.5″ wide x 3.25″ tall
From: Clear Creek Trading- Etsy
Post mortem photography was popular in the Victorian era when photography was recently invented because having your picture taken was so expensive. Often families would only have one picture of each person in their family. It was common, especially for children, to have their picture taken after they had died.
Because for photographs back then the subject would have to sit still for several minutes to get a clear shot, having the subjects be dead would be a way to get a sharp image. This is also why you never see people smile in Victorian photographs– it’s easier to sit still with a straight face than hold a smile for several minutes.
This cow eyeball was given to us by a friend who collects curiosities like us!
Cow eyeballs are commonly used for dissection in science classes because of their similarity to human eyes, though they are quite bigger.
Preserved cow eyeball wet specimen
Size: 2 1/4″ wide x 1 1/2″ tall; jar 2 3/4″ tall
From: Given as a gift
Price: Unknown, but you can find them online for just a few dollars
This was the first human bone in our collection. One day in Obscura we saw a jar of human rib bones for relatively cheap. They told us that they get their human bones from cadavers that are no longer of use to medical schools.
There are laws that one must follow if you would like to have human pieces in your collection. The main rule is that the item cannot be immediately viable. For example, you cannot buy a heart from a recently deceased person that could still be used for a heart transplant to save someone else’s life. However, once the item does not hold any potential value to a living person, it is acceptable to buy and sell human remains.
An old rib from a medical school cadaver
Size: 4 1/2″ long x 3/4″ wide
This is one of the first butterflies we ever added to our collection (it’s technically M’s). We went to the World of Wings exhibit in New Jersey in February of 2014. There were some reptiles on display, but the main attraction was their butterfly exhibit, where every hour they would release the butterflies all around you in a special climate controlled room just for them.
Honestly I’m a little scared of butterflies because I don’t like bugs that can fly but this was a cool experience and I like how beautiful they are (as long as they’re dead).
We unfortunately don’t know what species of butterfly this one is, but it has beautiful black, white, orange, and yellow markings. We highly recommend the World of Wings exhibit if you’re ever in the area!
A butterfly displayed in glass with a wooden frame.
Size: butterfly 3″ wide x 1 1/2″ tall; frame 4 1/2″ wide x 4″ tall x 2″ deep
From: World of Wings Museum
A jackalope is a well-known taxidermy gaff (a fake specimen). One is made by attaching any kind of antlers to a regular taxidermied rabbit. They are usually displayed as a head mount on a wall, but sometimes you can find a full-bodied one.
This is one of only a couple of gaffs that we’re interested in procuring. We like real animals better, but as this one is so infamous we would like to add one to our collection.