Informing the Present by Breaking Down the Past (Literally!) 

Canadian Museum of Nature Blog

TheCanadian Museum of Nature’s collection is filled with irreplaceable natural history specimens. We ensure each specimen is protected in a stable environment to prevent degradation over time. But did you know that scientists sometimes break these specimens on purpose to better understand them?

As acollectionstechnician in themuseum’sPalaeobiology Section, my job often involves removing small pieces of specimens for scientific analyses. Of course, this results in damage to the specimens, but the resulting information from physically and chemically altering the pieces makesit worthwhile.

The national palaeontology collections include an assemblage of Canadian subfossils, organic remains on their way to being mineralized. These subfossils have not become fully encased in rock or had their biological hard parts (bone, tooth, shell, etc.) replaced with a mineral. The greater presence of ancient organic material allows for biochemical sampling, such as radiocarbon dating, stable isotope analysis, and ancient DNA (aDNA, for short) sequencing.

Technician working at a sampling station.
Collections Technician…

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Author: Lochsloidh - McFarlane

Retired science/biology teacher.

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