Hidden Treasures of the LKC Natural History Museum – Part 3: The Invertebrate Wet Collection

Warning: this article contains pictures of dead animals – but mostly the kinds that you’re used to seeing. You know, on dinner plates.

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Here we come to the specimens preserved in fluid. This entire floor is dedicated to the invertebrates: insects, crabs, snails, octopuses, all your classic crawly pals. While some of these animals could also be preserved dry, soft-bodied creatures like aphids and several types of insect larvae would shrivel up if they were to be left dry. Otherwise, it depends on the aims of the researchers themselves.

Specimens are kept in jars filled with formalin, denatured ethanol, or unmethylated ethanol. This is somewhat similar to how animals like snakes have been infused in wine and enjoyed by Chinese, Vietnamese and Southeast Asians for thousands of years. That is strictly a fun fact and NOT an endorsement of you breaking into the museum to get drunk off funky isopod liquor. Please, don’t.

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IMG_5523.jpgDon’t panic, those are just unfortunately placed barnacles.

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With the constant use of the specimens for research, the preservative liquid will evaporate, so the the curators top up the jars from time to time. These specimens can’t survive long without their booze.

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IMG_5595.jpgI stole this and it looks great on my coffee table. Just kidding.

Most of the specimens are from Southeast Asia, including specimens collected on expeditions. In fact, some of the museum’s scientists recently embarked on a two-week long deep sea expedition called the South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition (SJADES 2018). It was led by the head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Professor Peter Ng, as well as Professor Dwi Listyo Rahayu, Senior Research Scientist of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). With their ship hovering over relatively unexplored deep seas, they collected over 12 000 deep sea animals, including over a dozen new species of hermit crabs, lobsters and prawns. Some of those specimens are now sitting in compactors specially labelled “Expeditions/Trips”, awaiting our scientists’ groundbreaking research.

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Next up is the vertebrates. See you in part 4!

 

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