Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Taxidermy (Greek for the arrangement of the skin) is the art of mounting or reproducing animals for display or study. This is a practice generally done with vertebrates, but occasionally with other less-developed species.
Especially over the last century, the methods that taxidermists practice have been improved, heightening the quality of the practice.
Taxidermists may practice professionally, as museum personnel, or merely as amateurs, such as hobbyists, hunters, and fishers. To practice taxidermy, one must be extremely familiar with anatomy, dissection techniques, sculpture, and painting, as well as tanning.
One problem with taxidermy is the level of constant practice that all taxidermists must endure, so that specimens look life-like rather than like a tacky joke.
One of the most common techniques for modern taxidermists begins by freezing the animal's carcass in a large freezer, often a butcher's. The taxidermist then removes the skin, to be tanned and treated for later use. The remaining muscle fibers and bones are then submerged in plaster of Paris, to create a cast of the animal. With this cast, a fiberglass sculpture is created, onto which the fur or skin can be reattached. Glass eyes are then usually added to the display, and possibly also false teeth, depending on the subject's original dental condition.
An increasingly popular trend is to freeze-dry the animal. Although this can only be done with reptiles and birds, it is quicker and easier than the traditional method. As such this method is usually employed with souvenier keychains.
Crypto-taxidermy is the creation of stuffed animals which do not have real, live counterparts. They may have mythical counterparts (e.g. dragons), or they may be of the taxidermist's imagination. They can be made from parts of other animals (e.g. chimeras) or they may be artificially created.
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