Perhaps you are not familiar with the term taxidermy but you have seen it at least once in your life or in movies. That old deer head hanging from a hunters wall or that bear strategically placed at the entrance of a cabin. You might have even seen it at museums or art exhibits. Taxidermy is becoming part of our environment and every day atmosphere more and more each day.
Taxidermy is a greek word that translated into english means “arrangement of skin”. Dermy deriving from the word epidermis. The dictionary defines taxidermy as the art of preparing and preserving the skins of animals and of stuffing and mounting them in lifelike form.
Taxidermy might not sound like a common hobby to you. To some it might even seem grotesque and cruel. This practice became popular in the 1700s when the trend for leather started to rise. There were professional people who made a career out of turning animal skins into leather goods. Seeing how this was popular, hunters and such started bringing in whole animals to get stuffed. Hence the birth of the word stuffed animal.
While in the old days taxidermy was a way of bragging and showing off what they had hunted today it’s used for different reasons. The latest popular trend in taxidermy is to preserve your pet. Yes, now Cujo can be immortalize! Some people simply can’t let go of their pets and they chose to freeze dry them and display them.
To be able to efficiently practice taxidermy you have to be somewhat knowledgeable in tanning and anatomy as you will be dissecting the animal and preserving its skin. The most common method of taxidermy is freeze drying.
Freeze drying is also known as lyophilization. When you freeze dry something you are basically getting rid of all the water and liquids to be able to preserve it. This process is known as dehydration. In order to freeze the skin you have to lower the pressure to allow the heat to convert a solid into a gas.
There are three basic steps to freeze drying. The first step is freezing, followed by primary drying and lastly there’s the secondary drying stage. Freezing which is the most important step can be achieved with liquid nitrogen or in a bath of dry ice and methanol (CH3OH). Methanol has a tetrahedral shape and is part of the organic groups of alcohol. The primary and secondary drying involves sublimation and adsorption.
Whether you are freeze drying the catch of the day, your beloved pet or food for storage it is definitely something that is being incorporated into our enviroment. Freeze drying is a costly process so it hasn’t been implemented fully but there’s been an increasing trend in the food industry with products high in protein and enzymes that are more prone to spoiling. Expect to be seeing or tasting more of this evolving trend!
Taxidermy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxidermy December 2006
“What is Taxidermy?” www.taxidermy.net/information/whatis.html November 2006