A dead sugar glider takes on new life as a skeletal mount. Photos from start to finish of my first skeletal mount.
ATTENTION: This post contains graphic images of an animal being skinned as well as injuries. It is NSFW and R-18G. Click “Read more” if you wish to see it.
This is “Crash”. “Crash” is a young male sugar glider that lived with his cagemate “Rachet” in the home of my mammology professor. On Christmas day, he was found dead in his cage. To avoid ruining Christmas for the kids with news of his death, he was left in the cage, and collected the next day.
I received him a few months after he died, frozen and rolled up in a little bag. I started by doing a condition check, looking him over for injuries, abnormalities and potential problem areas.
He’s pretty dried out. This is typical of specimens that have been frozen for a long time. His lips have dried and receded to expose the long “diprotodont” incisors. Those long pointed lower incisors is the defining characteristic of the diprotodont marsupials, a group that includes kangaroos, koalas, wombats and extinct species like Thylacoleo, the marsupial lion.
Front paw, dried but in good condition.
Here’s something out of the ordinary. His eye is missing.
It’s not merely sunken and dried, it’s actually missing, along with all muscles associated with the eye. The braincase is visible in the back of the empty socket, marred with punctures. This is a fatal injury.
I wash him off to find that his entire underside is already bare.
This is a effect called “slippage.” When an animal dies, decomposition in the skin layer causes the hair follicles and roots to break down, allowing the fur to come off in large patches. This is the same factor that creates the hairless “mystery” carcasses that you see in the news so much.
The slippage on this guy is extremely advanced. I was told that this guy was left for 24 hours before he went into the freezer.
I doubt it. Unless their house was hotbed of decomposition activity, it’s highly probable that he had died a couple days earlier was discovered on Christmas day and left for another day.
Asides from being extremely dessicated and old, nothing inside looks out of the ordinary. He’s got some fat deposits and seems to be in good shape.
Here’s the skin. Sugar gliders as so named, because they can glide short distances much like flying squirrels. They glide using a flap of skin called the “patagium,” that stretches along the the flank. All that slippage is on the patagium.
I’m done skinning. I’ve removed some of the abdominal cavity organs. Thankfully, the tail was cooperative.
Here’s the face skinned. You can see very clearly that the eye is gone, along with the punctures in the braincase.
Now it’s up to the beetle colony. The beetles should be monitored for progress to avoid disarticulating the skeleton, as well as carrying off pieces.
Most of the bones are clean and the beetles are starting to lose interest.
Interesting, the zygomatic arch, or cheek bone on the left side is missing.
The advantage of using dermestid beetles is that they’re capable of cleaning very delicate things for which no other method will work. Check out this hyoid and associated cartilages. The hyoid is a very small bone in the throat, the associated cartilages form the voice box.
I bleached the skeleton. This skeleton is very delicate and I bleached conservatively to avoid damage.
While drying, I pinned the skeleton into an appropriate pose. In this photo, you can see more damage to the skull, the ygomatic arch (cheek bone) is missing as is the coronoid process, the point on the lower jaw to which jaw muscles attach. There’s a bunch of punctures to the braincase from this side too. I’m fairly certain that this animal died of these injuries, likely inflicted by his cagemate.
I actually bought a base for this , but then decided that a branch would be better. I found a suitable branch and sawed it to length. I anchored a wire to the branch and attached the axial skeleton to the wire.
Attaching the limbs. The most important tool is the syringe. It allows me to pipe glue into very tight crevices.
One more limb to do. After each limb is glued, I wet the joints slightly to pose them. This is how I got the fingers and toes to wrap around the branch.
Done! He’s got some messy areas, but for my first time, I think he came out well.