dolphin skull

Boneland: Building a Skeleton Part 2

Hello again friends! The past couple of months have been a big learning curve with the dolphin skeleton project. Remember how brown some of those bones were after the initial hydrogen peroxide soaks? Here is a reminder:









The bony culprits that were the most brown and smelly tended to be the flipper bones, vertebrae from the tail region of the animal, and chevron bones (which hang off the vertebrae belly-side and protect the aorta). The skull and shoulder blades were also needing some TLC in the form of whitening. With more research I found some degreasing protocols and was surprised to learn that the process can take up to several months!

First, I soaked the flipper bones, vertebrae, and chevron bones in pure acetone for 4 weeks. Prepare yourselves for the below photo of the acetone baths post-processing; I am going out on a limb here and assuming those of you cruising this site may have some level of appreciation for gross-tastic science!

The dolphin skull and shoulder blades are fairly large so I soaked them in your standard, run-of-the-mill Dawn dish soap mixed with 3 gallons of water in a large bucket. Since these structures weren’t saturated with as much oil, this took approximately three weeks. Here are some of the bones after the first round of acetone/dish soap processing:

Looking better but still need some work.

Then, all bone pieces were rinsed off and left out to dry overnight before being soaked in another bath of hydrogen peroxide at a slightly higher concentration of 18%-20% for 72 hours. I was pretty happy with the results! After another acetone/dish soap bath for a few of the skeletal elements, the assembly process can start.


Say hi to volunteers and friends Sommer Kuhn and Samantha McGuire!

Until next time!!