27 August 2007

Necropsy Aromatherapy

Necropsy: "the term for a post-mortem examination performed on an animal. The prefix 'auto-' means 'self', and so autopsy denotes the human species performing a post-mortem examination on one of its own." (from Wikipedia)

Lately, we have been necropsying lots harbor seal stomachs. Native hunters have kindly donated us the stomachs and various organs and guts from seals they have hunted (others are not allowed to hunt seals). These donated tissues are windows into what constitutes a "healthy" seal as they did not die of an illness. All of the other tissues we receive typically come from animals who die a "natural" death which usually means they weren't doing so well.

With the stomachs we are emptying the contents, which we will later clean & identify, weighing them and describing them. We can find out what they are eating and what kind of parasites they have. These animals were shot at differing stages of digestion and sometimes we pull full fish out. Some of them really reek. As we do this work in a quarantined area (to prevent spreading potentially infectious material to healthy captive animals or vulnerable rescue animals) we cannot step out to get a fresh breath of air. When the smell gets too much though we go to aromatherapy which consists of sticking one's nose in the citrus scented Chlorox wipe container and breathing until nausea passes. I am amused by this as I usually find perfumed or scented things objectionable as they set of my hay fever. Luckily, I tolerate citrus smells well. (PS - I am kindly restraining from posting pictures of the said stomachs.)


  1. the cute picture much preferred.

    In AP Biology we disected sharks, and our aromatherapy was the "Exclamation!" perfume my lab partner had squirted into our elbows. I couldn't bmell it after htat without thinking of shark guts. I hope you don't have a similar reaction to citrus and seal stomachs.

  2. I never anticipated read the words Chlorox and Aromatherapy in the same post :).

    This reminds me a little of HS biology when we dissected bullfrogs and found a crawfish claw in the stomach of one.

  3. I hope their stomachs were healthy.....

  4. how much human crap (plastic and whatnot) are you finding?

    this is pretty gross, sister. makes me adore you even more.

    and the russian river was in California, btw. but J spent a summer on the Kenai peninsula (in case that earns me likey points) .

  5. Oh, pleeeease post pictures of the stomachs, they sound so cool!

  6. please keep up posted on what you're finding in there. i'm also reminded of a bio class where we discected owl barf. It was the most interesting one of the whole semester.

  7. Oh dear! Thanks for refraining from posting the digested digestables of said dead seals. Also, isn't there something a little weird about scientists inhaling citrus flavored bleach fumes for relief? I'm just asking because if we clergyfolks did that somebody might call in a scientist to tell us it was hazardous to our health!

    Thanks for posting the meme....

    still lovin' your blog....


  8. Thanks for visiting me - I, too, am wondering if you are finding a lot of crap that is not supposed to be in there???

  9. So amazingly we aren't finding much human stuff in these stomachs (though we do in some of the animals we get who come in through the stranded marine wildlife network). Let's see, so far we've found lots of fish, mostly pollock & salmon but some herring. And one dude was totally into octopuses and it looked like he had a bunch of purses in his stomachs but then we found the octopi beaks and figured out when they were. They also have at least 4 species of worm parasites that are visibly different to the naked eye. We will be able to tell more when we start sorting through it under the microscope.

  10. Looking over at the counter in the kitchen where there sits a bottle of those Clorox wipes, I realize that I've never considered them as a resource for aromatherapy. :)

    Now I'll remember that!



  11. I think pics of the stomachs and contents might be interesting, esp as the smell wont come with them!


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