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Long-spine porcupinefish

Taxidermy – or stuffing animals – is truly an art form. One of the problems here is that organic material such as fur coating, feathers and scales decompose quite quickly. To fix that, back in the 18th century, French pharmacist and taxidermist Jean-Baptiste Bécoeur developed a type of soap using arsenic as its base. That extremely poisonous substance puts a complete halt to decomposition. Thanks to Bécoeur, today’s scientists are able to study stuffed animals from over 200 years ago.
  • Maker: unknown
  • Date: unknown
  • Location: Ghent, Belgium
  • Scientific name: Diodon holocanthus
  • Collection: Zoology
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Porcupinefish can make themselves swell up by sucking in water. That makes them more difficult to grab and swallow.

What is a study skin?

A study skin is the prepared skin of an animal, after all the flesh, bones and organs have been removed. A taxidermist fills the skin with durable fillers, and may choose to imitate the original shape of the animal.

What does this specimen show?

This specimen shows a porcupinefish. Porcupinefish can make themselves swell up by sucking in water. That makes them more difficult to grab and swallow. When they do this, they also stick out their spines. The taxidermist has chosen to imitate the porcupinefish in its swollen state. 

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