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Flesh-eating beetles help paleontologists get the job done in Peace region

05/30/2015 01:44 EDT | Updated 05/30/2016 05:59 EDT
You might not think there would be much for a beetle to do in a paleontology museum. But you would be wrong.

Paleontologist Lisa Buckley and the rest of her team at the The Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre in Tumbler Ridge have the hungry Dermestid beetles working hard for them. And the work, which might be considered gruesome for a human employee, is a flesh-eating beetle's delight.

Paleontologists often use the bones of modern animals for comparison with the dinosaur fossils they study. Those bones need to be cleaned, and that's where the insects come in. 

"We take these modern animal specimens, road-kill, things that we find out in the wild, put them in a container with these flesh-eating beetles and let them work their magic," Buckley told Carolina de Ryk on CBC Radio One's Daybreak North.

"(They) are a natural part of the scavenger cycle, so they're part of nature's clean up crew."

According to Buckley, if a human was tasked with the bone-cleaning job, she would have to painstakingly clean and boil the bones, which could compromise the quality of the specimen. 

If you're grossed out by the idea of flesh-eating beetles, Buckley added, the approximately 1-centimetre-long black insects can be found in and around most homes, feeding on hair, dead insects, pet food, and any other dried food scraps. 

To hear the full interview with paleontologist Lisa Buckley, listen to the audio labelled: Beetles help paleontologists get the job done in Peace Region.

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