Chicago Adventure, Part Five: The Platypus, The Skin, & The Cold


The Chicago Field Museum is one of the largest and most respected natural history museums in the world. Join me as we go behind the scenes! Dun dun dun! There it is.
– Pull that drawer open. I’m scared. Oh my gosh. Why did nature- Wha- AGH! He has eyes on him! Oh my gosh! Why? Ooh, weiird. Is this the mandible? What are these teeth?! They don’t even go- They go out the wrong way! This is so weird! Oh my gosh! Why did they- Why are they dipped in? Why aren’t they- Why don’t they go out? Why don’t they have cusps? I don’t know. Does any- of- wha- Why? Look at this thing. Oh my- It looks like a- an insect. I don’t even understand why its teeth look like this. This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I don’t understand. I cannot compute this. Like- th- uh, it looks so weird. And you know about the spines, right? Yeah, they have poisonous spines. Yeah, there you go. What. What? In its feet?
– See ’em? Right there. Ohhh. What! Ew, weird! Look at that! What kind of, uh, venom…
– So venom is produced in the gland there and then travels along the spine and the current thinking is that it helps to keep other males at bay. But there’s still so much we don’t know
Crazy. about these animals. This is why we have the specimens here, so that you and I can test different hypotheses about the function, the form and the evolution of some of the most beautiful creatures on Earth. I just don’t even understand why everybody isn’t a platypus scientist. Because they’re the craziest things I’ve ever seen in my life. I don’t even- And people often- They get the idea that the duck bill is quite hard. Yeah. It’s stiff now but in life, it’s actually quite leathery and soft.
– It’s rubbery. Yeah. There’re a lot of nerves running between those teeth and the nas- and the beak there that, um, are, how they are sensing the invertebrates that are in the mud. I don’t even understand. I’m holding a platypus right now. And it’s… got eyes and it’s looking at me and it’s… happy. I don’t know. So, some skins are too big to keep in the drawers with everybody else, so we have these three giant skin refrigerators Okay. and this is where we store, um…
– Whoa. Pulling out the key. It’s very serious in here. I can imagine why. Whoooa. WHOOOOA. It’s like our cold room except huge! These are amazing. You have grizzlies! You have polar bears! So, people, uh, people- rich folk, who’ve got rugs,
– Yeah. they’re like, you know, ‘I don’t need this anymore’, so they donate rugs, so we’ve got these, like, modified, like,
– Oh my gosh. polar bear rugs.
– Huge. Is that a panda? It is a panda.
– That’s a panda! You have pandas! Dogs? German shepherd, St. Bernard…
– Ew! Weird. I guess, I mean you gotta save ’em.
– Yeah. You have like sloths and weird things in here, tanned hides… African lion.
– 1935. Whoa. Which if you think about it doesn’t really seem that long ago to contribute these things. 1905.
– No. And you can see, like, their- where they- they were shot. Yeah.
– Like you can see the holes. Wow.
– It’s- They’re such gorgeous specimens. That is so cool. That is so space age. So, uh, this is DNA from what exactly? These are all tissue samples of amphibians and reptiles.
– Okay. And how many can fit in one of these containers? Usually there are a hundred tissue vials in a box. In one of those?
– In one of these. Okay. See, there’s that little grid.
– Yeah. So 1 to 100. And then we have 13 boxes in every rack. So 1,300. And then we have 54 racks. I’m not that good at math.
– About 70,000 vials. Really?
– Yes. Yes. 70,000 in each one of the tanks.
– Yes. That’s a lot of vials. It is. So that’s why we have to be really well organized.
– Yeah. Well org- well organized and, um, it looks like it’s kind of dangerous. Well if you’re not wearing gloves it’s dangerous. Yeah. I mean, those are some pretty heavy duty gloves. It’s really cool. And so, you today, um, take tissue samples from every specimen that comes in now? Every new one? We like to have tissue samples of everything if possible. Okay.
– We actually just got a collection in from Honduras today and everything came with a tissue sample.
– Ooo. Oh, so it’s kinda becoming standard practice for natural history museums to just keep parts of DNA.
– Yes. Well, it’s really important that they collect a tissue sample before they pickle it. Oh, okay.
– Because the formalin mangles the DNA. Yeah.
– Yeah, destroys the DNA. That’s wonderful. And, so, potentially, with having the DNA sample, what are- what- what’re you gonna do with it now? Just hold on to it and see what science-
–The sky’s the limit. Yeah?
– I mean, we’re pretty much a lending library of genetic material. So, if someone is doing a research project, um, as long as it looks legit and we have enough sample, we’ll send it to them. That’s awesome. That’s really fascinating.

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