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How to free your finger from a pacman frog's mouth

You must wait. It helps to put the frog down. Don't pull on the frog or try to pry its mouth open. When it's comfortable, it will release you from its surprisingly strong grip. The pain will come in waves as the frog relaxes and contracts. Pacman frogs have teeth and your finger will bleed a little. The pain is significant, hard to ignore but it is manageable. 


Note: It is possible to give a successful phone interview with one of your fingers stuck inside of a frog that is significantly larger than this one. 

Kind of dangerous to do but if you insist, be sure to check out this and other safety protocols. Talk to people with experience, read about it, miss nothing, never relax your standards. 


One time, my copperhead got loose in my parent's basement when I wasn't home. Good thing my dad and brother recognized it as venomous and didn't try to handle it. They shoved it out the door with a tote bin and it crawled away forever. I was grounded. 

How can I get permission to dissect a museum specimen?

You have a question that can only be answered by diving into an animal. You look to the museums. The animals are in there. They have what you need.


One role of natural history museums in society is to enable us to carry out anatomical queries such as the one that preceded the dissection of this rough-necked monitor lizard. The question: How does the hyoid morphology vary in Varanidae ?


Fact: Museum specimens are pieces of history. We shouldn't just tear them apart.


The specimen in this photo has it's hide peeled back. When I was finished, I rolled it back over the neck and sewed the edges back together. The specimen was then returned to its storage tank. It appears normal at first glance.

  • Click here to see an annotated slideshow of this and other monitor lizard/hyoid dissections

  • Click here to see the journal entry illustrating a conservative dissection of an especially valuable Mexican beaded lizard 


To get what you need, you must find a dissection approach that does minimal damage. Know what you're looking for in the body and contrive a conservative route to it. Then, write a proposal to the collection staff that describes your research initiative and what you plan to do with your hands. Emphasize your commitment to be cautious. It helps to have a visual aid to present to them. 



How do I keep bones in position while the glue is drying?

A fine question! Assembling an appropriate scaffolding to support your disarticulated bones is perhaps the greatest challenge that articulators face. There is no generic solution. You must improvise. Your workspace should be host to a variety of tools that you can pick and use without interrupting the flow of your work.  Stock your lab with the following materials:

  • A large and diverse collection of pins
  • Wooden skewers
  • Fishing line
  • Fishing hooks
  • Ethafoam pieces of all shapes and sizes
  • Ringstands
  • Test tube racks
  • Free-standing photoclips
  • Free standing soldering clamp units
  • Playdoh and soft rubber erasers
  • Electrical tape
  • Adhesives

What are the ABC's of specimen labeling?

All specimens must be labeled and catalog numbers are essential. Here are some protocols for labeling and cataloging your finds. 
  • from
  • from American Museum of Natural History

You can make your own mesh baskets. Click for more photos.

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How to keep bones from getting lost in beetle

Joseph Mandrell (Department of Exhibitions, Field Museum of Natural History) operates a jeweler's saw. I wanted to know how to make armature and a base to mount a beaver skeleton. Here, Joe is demonstrating how to begin a base.

jewelers saw

These are some very useful products to buy if you're working with ethafoam



Square point knife 6'' $20.95 #969-23212

Square point knife 4'' $18.05 #969-23211

Pottery knife $26.45 #969-23220

Knife sharpener $21.20 #969-2325025

Ethafoam sheets 2x $166.00 23x29x.25'' #019-232913

Ethafoam planks $177.75 12x24x2'' #020-12242

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