One of the oddest jobs at the Natural History Museum in London is picking clean the carcass and bones of specimens that are to be put on display as skeletons. Odder yet are the workers that are employed to do such work: beetles. Yes, beetles as in insects. The museum’s smallest workers are flesh-eating beetles that prepare skeletons by stripping off the flesh while leaving the bones, cartilage, tendons and other tissue untouched. And by the looks of this fascinating time-lapse video–entitled the Secret Life of the Beetles–these beetles seem to enjoy their work. Watch as they make skeletons of a Great Green Macaw, a Tawny Owl (at 1:55) and a Mountain Peacock-Pheasant (3:12):
The beetles, a species called Dermestes haemorrhoidalis, are employed for this line of work because chemical preparation of skeletons can cause damage to the bones.
So, it’s a win-win for the museum and the insects. The museum gets a no-cost, efficient worker that picks the bones clean and the beetles get to eat for a living. What’s not to like?