Re: NANFA-- bleak news for fish lovers

Dave Neely (
Thu, 02 Dec 1999 20:37:29 CST

Bonnie and Shireen,

>I'm hoping that if the critters were preserved in formalin
>or paraformaldehyde that they are not being passed around without >gloves
>for all.

Specimens were fixed in 10% formalin for a period of 2-4weeks, rinsed in
water until no residual formaldehyde odor was detectable (overnight for most
small fish) and transferred to 70% EtOH. Waste formalin is either reused or
disposed of following OSHA-approved methods. We certainly don't "swim in
formaldehyde" anymore, and use all appropriate measures to limit contact.

When I say the fish were dried out, I mean excess EtOH was blotted off with
an old towel. Kids handling the fish should wear gloves; mainly because the
EtOH causes your skin to dry out... Even though they DO lose some of their
color, when you plop a 1.5m long paddlefish down in front of kids, they WILL
get excited. Guaranteed.
Same with most of the other fish that you could use...

>I have an easy protocol for differential staining of fish bone with
>Alizarin red and fish cartilage with Alcian blue and the critters ( >I'm
>interested in embryos and larvae) end up in glycerol...

You can also use Sudan Black to stain nerves, which produces a REALLY cool
effect. Clearing and staining is also inexpensive, which makes it a great
way to get fish into the classrooms. It's also neat to do a series of fish,
salamanders, snakes (remove the scales 1st), and small mammals, and then
have them find homologous structures across all of the groups.

Dermestids are awesome critters- I've been teaching a vertebrate zoology lab
this semester, and we've been cycling everything from paddlefish to
armadillos to salamders through our colony. They don't disarticulate the
skeleton like boiling or fire ants do. If the colony is kept well aerated,
and the specimens are allowed to dry before you put them in, it produces
relatively little odor. I'd be happy to mail folks enough for a starter kit
if anyone is interested... (shireen? ;)

Oh, and before anyone starts on how paddlefish are cartilaginous and bugs
would eat everything, that's what I thought too. Wrong. The rostrum is
partially ossified, formed of an intricate lattice-like matrix of bone. It's
got to be one of the most awesome and beautiful structures I've ever seen in
a vertebrate. Can't wait to get my hands on a fresh sturgeon (NOT sutkussi!)
and see if the rostrum looks the same.


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