When a dead animal gets sent to a museum for preservation and display, its flesh doesn’t just melt away, leaving a perfectly clean, bleached skeleton. Someone has to clean the specimen, removing fleshy bits that might rot over the years, like the eyes. In order to preserve animal bones for decades of use and study, natural history museums employ flesh-eating beetles to play nature’s clean-up crew, leaving no part of the carcass untouched. 

Dermestid beetles gnaw away all the rotting vestiges of the once-living bird or snake or bobcat, expediting the preservation process. Beetles can clean a carcass more quickly and with less mess than any other method, leaving just clean bones. The process is quite breathtaking, really. Especially in the 4K resolution of the PBS feature above. 

Want to know more about the flesh-eating beetles working behind the scenes at museums? Read our feature story about dermestids.

Banner image screenshot via YouTube