Squirrel Skulls (Warning: Gruesome)

A few years ago I wrote about a certain road-killed squirrel. Parker and I, imitating the great biologist Francesco Redi, took possession of this dainty article and observed it for days. Redi used that sort of observation to prove that dead things don’t actually turn into worms by spontaneous generation. Instead, the worms are insect larvae. If flies and beetles can’t reach the dead animal to lay eggs on it, the worms don’t appear. In that one series of experiments, Redi not only debunked spontaneous generation, he also invented the idea of scientific controls—that is, changing a factor in one experiment while keeping that factor the same in a parallel experiment.

What Parker and I got was no scientific revolution, but a cool set of photos—and a few surprises. We learned about parasites and predators in our back yard that we’d never suspected.

I mention all this because not long ago, Parker made a couple more discoveries. Beneath the shed whose roof held our roadkill for observation, he found the skull and jawbones of another squirrel. At first he suspected this might be exactly the one we observed all those years ago. It isn’t, as I knew because I’d seen this new squirrel turn up dead in the yard one day and placed it there for further observations, which I then forgot to make. (Besides, as my original article reminds me, the first squirrel was removed by a scavenger.)

Parker’s other discovery turned up in the rain barrel. I call it a rain barrel because it was a barrel full of rain. It wasn’t there for that purpose, however. It was simply a trash barrel that Beckett had put there because, one humid day, he found it crawling with gleaming maggots. He hated to leave it near the house, so he tossed it into the yard, far back where he wouldn’t have to look at it. It stood there through several rains. What Parker found in that barrel of rain was squirrel stew. The way I figure it, some squirrel must have fallen in from the pine tree above and found itself unable to climb out. A few weeks converted it to a furry, semi-liquid mess. Parker overturned the barrel and noted, among the gray leavings on the ground, the disarticulated skeleton of the squirrel.

It was all very gruesome, but a few weeks of drying in the garage will convert these fine bones into another specimen for my Cabinet of Curiosities

Trust me, squirrel bones are hiding in this mess. 



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