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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Department ofVertebrate Zoology

This skull from a black-footed ferret was cleaned by dermestids in the OPL and was part of John Ososky's research project. Credit: Chip Clark

This skull from a black-footed ferret was cleaned by dermestids in the OPL and was part of John Ososky's research project. Credit: Chip Clark

The bones that are held in the museum’s research collections draw scientists from around the world to the Smithsonian Institution. The research done on the skeletons prepared by the OPL staff, dermestids, and compost heap has resulted in many intriguing discoveries.

Among these is the discovery that there are more species of cetaceans – marine mammals like whales, dolphins and porpoises – than scientists had previously assumed. In fact, the OPL works closely with the museum's Marine Mammal Program to maintain a comprehensive collection of cetacean skeletons. These skeletons are commonly used by visiting scientists for research on marine mammal anatomy and analyzing patterns of marine mammal stranding in response to oceanic changes.

The work of the OPL also includes a few other activities that do not require beetles or compost that are pertinent to vertebrate research. The lab’s sizeable space and collection of equipment for large animal dissections are used on a regular basis by visiting scientists studying large animal anatomy. Additionally, the OPL is integrally involved in tissue collection from animal remains, which are held by the museum for research purposes.

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