Flesh-eating Beetles

I didn’t expect her to say that.

I was sitting in lecture for Anatomy today and my instructor told us, “It has come to my attention that many of you are disturbed by the oily substance on the yellowed skulls in the lab. Since I have been approached by so many people on numerous separate occasions regarding this matter, I find it appropriate to address you all today to bring clarity upon the subject and to save myself the energy of repeating this 60 more times.
You have probably observed that there are two colors of skulls in our lab: white and yellow. The white ones were cleaned by UCSF and were never exposed to formaldehyde. The yellow ones came from cadavers and were exposed to the chemical which discolored them. The oily substance is residual from the cadaver’s chemical treatment. One of our colleagues here in the department whom you may have met taking a Physiology course, was gracious enough to lend us his FLESH-EATING BEETLES to clean the skulls. Clearly we would be unable to clean them given plethora of small spaces that exist in the human skull, all of which you have hopefully been spending ample open lab time learning to identify right now.
Now, you probably understand that taking human remains home is highly illegal, so they were cleaned in a very legal fashion here on campus. If you have ever been to the other campus, though, you will see a skeleton of a giraffe in the library. That skeleton was also cleaned by his flesh-eating beetles one bone at a time. That took place at his own home because the risk of keeping those beetles here on campus for any extended amount of time is far to risky in the event that two or more escape. The cadavers in our lab, and many of the materials we used to study with in this lab would be immediately decimated by the presence of those creatures.
Now then, I need to address the issue of your upcoming skeletal lab exam. I will never forget the poor woman who exited the lab exam one semester and stumbled into me in the hallway looking thoroughly miffed and unpleasantly surprised. The only thing she managed to say before we got into a rather heated discussion initiated by her was, ‘I never thought you would put EVERYTHING on the test.’ So to save all of you this surprising revelation, yes, EVERYTHING is going to be on the exam. Absolutely everything listed in your lab manuals will be present in the exam. You need to recognize individual skull bones on the table, tell me whether it is a right or left rib, identify each part of the bones, the fossae, foramena, grooves, processes, articulating facets, etc. You need to tell me what side of the body it is from, and whether it is part of the axial or appendicular skeleton. You also need to know the general functions of the parts of bones. It is not enough to know that this is a transverse costal facet on a thoracic vertebrae. You need to be able to tell me that that is where the tubercle on the head of the rib articulates. I will not ask you to identify the number of the vertebrae. That is reserved for a medical school level anatomy class. I do however need you to be familiar with the range of numbers that vertebrae might exist in. Like, for example, if it has a superior and inferior demifacet on each side plus the transverse costal facet, it would be T2-T8. Or you need to know that the crista galli of the ethmoid bone is the attachment point for the dura mater of the brain. The occipital condyles around the foramen magnum of the skull on the inferior view articulate with the superior articular facets of the superior articulating processes of the atlas (C1) vertebrae, etc. Now then… let’s get started on more bone. First, I’d like to talk to you about…”

Her voice faded off in my head as I pictured a human head being put into a tank full of flesh-eating beetles. Then I thought, “Gee, I hope they are only DEAD-flesh eating beetles, because if they got loose in that instructor’s house, I’d hate to see what would become of him. That’s straight up Indiana Jones stuff right there. ”

Oh right. More bone lecture…back to paying attention.

Good thing I recorded that lecture because terrifying images of flesh-devouring beetles flashed through my mind for the next hour and a half.


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