Meet The Eatles

Dermestid beetles in the Organ Lab colony - The Eatles
Welcome to the internet home of the Organ Lab dermestid beetle colony at Indiana University School of Medicine, AKA The Eatles!

Currently, our laboratory studies mechanisms to enhance the biomechanical properties of bone and muscle in the context of various diseases such as osteoporosis, chronic kidney disease, and osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease). We do this from an experimental perspective using a variety of animal models. But we have always taken a comparative and evolutionary anatomy approach to understanding how bones and muscles work.

In order to study comparative bone and muscle anatomy and biomechanics, we have amassed a large collection of animal cadavers over the years. Many of these animals have been used to produce published data on bone and muscle form and function. A complete list of comparative anatomy references from our lab that have utilized these and other animals is listed below.

We have been fortunate to obtain funding for our health-related research over the last couple of years which has crammed our freezers full of research animals waiting to be skeletonized and archived for use by other researcher and as teaching tools for our outreach initiatives. So naturally, we employ the most efficient laboratory workers for such a job: a colony of dermestid beetles who clean away all the soft tissue from our skeletal specimens for us. And we hope you will enjoy learning a little about each of the animals our beetles (aka The Eatles) are chomping on cleaning for us.

Dermestid beetles (Dermestes maculatus), or hide beetles, feed on carrion and dried animal remains, and are the preferred method for cleaning skeletal remains at museums world wide. They only eat dried animal flesh, which means they have no interest in eating our hands while we handle them. Because they eat dried animal remains, they are also important indicators in forensic entomology as they typically arrive within a week after death and are one of the dominant insects in mid and late decay. You can read more about the geographic distribution, life cycle, and general biology of the dermestid beetle at the University of Florida's Featured Creatures website.

Our first experiences with dermestid beetles occurred while working in the collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. When we decided to start our own beetle colony, we scoured the interwebs looking for sources of beetles and advice for running a colony. We purchased our beetles from Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy, and we are grateful for their help in establishing our colony.

We will update this blog each time we introduce a new set of remains to our colony. The goal will be to describe the animal species being cleaned and to detail a little of that species' natural history. Thank you for visiting, and please come back soon!

Contributed by: Jason Organ, PhD

Comparative Anatomy Literature from the Organ Lab:

Organ JM, & Ward CV (2006). Contours of the hominoid lateral tibial condyle with implications for Australopithecus. Journal of human evolution, 51 (2), 113-27 PMID: 16563467  

Organ JM, Teaford MF, & Taylor AB (2009). Functional correlates of fiber architecture of the lateral caudal musculature in prehensile and nonprehensile tails of the platyrrhini (primates) and procyonidae (carnivora). Anatomical record (Hoboken, N.J. : 2007), 292 (6), 827-41 PMID: 19402068  

Sylvester AD, & Organ JM (2010). Curvature scaling in the medial tibial condyle of large bodied hominoids. Anatomical record (Hoboken, N.J. : 2007), 293 (4), 671-9 PMID: 20235323

Organ JM (2010). Structure and function of platyrrhine caudal vertebrae. Anatomical record (Hoboken, N.J. : 2007), 293 (4), 730-45 PMID: 20235328

Organ JM, Muchlinski MN, & Deane AS (2011). Mechanoreceptivity of prehensile tail skin varies between ateline and cebine primates. Anatomical record (Hoboken, N.J. : 2007), 294 (12), 2064-72 PMID: 22042733 

Organ JM, & Lemelin P (2011). Tail architecture and function of Cebupithecia sarmientoi, a Middle Miocene platyrrhine from La Venta, Colombia. Anatomical record (Hoboken, N.J. : 2007), 294 (12), 2013-23 PMID: 22042718 

Patel BA, Ruff CB, Simons EL, & Organ JM (2013). Humeral cross-sectional shape in suspensory primates and sloths. Anatomical record (Hoboken, N.J. : 2007), 296 (4), 545-56 PMID: 23408647 

Deane AS, Russo GA, Muchlinski MN, & Organ JM (2014). Caudal vertebral body articular surface morphology correlates with functional tail use in anthropoid primates. Journal of morphology, 275 (11), 1300-11 PMID: 24916635 

Rupert JE, Rose JA, Organ JM, & Butcher MT (2015). Forelimb muscle architecture and myosin isoform composition in the groundhog (Marmota monax). The Journal of experimental biology, 218 (Pt 2), 194-205 PMID: 25452499

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