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MLA Full: "Wolf Head CSI Fun Time." YouTube, uploaded by thebrainscoop, 8 March 2013,
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In which things are not always as they seem, and brains get scooped.


The Brain Scoop is written and hosted by:
Emily Graslie

Created By:
Hank Green

Written, Directed, Edited, Animated, and Scored by:
Michael Aranda

Captions provided by Martina Šafusová, Diana Raynes, Katerina Idrik, Arántzazu R. Alcocer Iturria, Ann-K. Baumbach, Tony Chu, Seth Bergenholtz, and John-Alan Pascoe! You guys win cookies for life. Thank you!

Yeah, blood all over the fridge. It bled. Kinda funny, on the bottle of Simple Green it doesn't specify that, uh, it's good for also cleaning up wolf blood out of your fridge. It works.

Hey everyone, so today we're going to be doing a fun CSI project. You may have seen the footage of us preparing a wolf that was donated from Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Um, that day that we went to pick it up we were actually given a couple of other wolf heads. We were given some of these wolves because they were thought to have been killed by mountain lions. And one of the ways that we can figure out whether or not they were killed by mountain lions is if we collect the skull and clean it and then we can, um, match up the size of the bite to some of the mountain lion skulls that we have in our collection. CSI!

Since I didn't know the condition of this pelt before I got started, uh, I took it out of the bag and realized that it is rotting. It's got mold spots, and white and black mold on it, and then the sides of it are gooey. It looks like caramel. Kind of. And, um, as you can imagine, of course it does not smell very good. I wonder how many different kinds of colonies are living on this skin right now.

I'm going to start cutting right under, on its lip, underneath the mandible. The last time I prepared a wolf, um, I was really concerned with keeping the entire face intact. Considering the decrepit state of the rest of the pelt, I'm not really gonna concern myself with keeping it pretty at this point. So. Here we go. I'm gonna cut right on its lip right here. Let's see. Oh, that's some tough tissue. Here we go.

This was apparently one of the oldest wolves that Fish, Wildlife & Parks have ever seen. They estimated it was probably 12 years old, and we may be able to determine its age based off of the extent of wear on its teeth compared to some known-age domestic dogs that we already have in the collection. Typically, in the wild, wolves will only live anywhere between, um, I would say six to eight years is average. Being an alpha female, you can imagine she probably had a longer life due to access to a better diet, being at the top of her hierarchy.

They know, um, that this female was, um, an alpha from her pack because they've been studying this particular pack for a while and had a lot of additional information about, um, the pack dynamics, so she's from the Lake Como pack, and they have, um, a number that she's been assigned as far as research purposes, so they can keep track of her.

Another way they know she's really old is because, um, wolves will get a lighter coat as they age. She's almost pure white, so that's, um, according to the people at Fish, Wildlife & Parks, it's uh-an unusual pelt color. Also her teeth are super messed up, and, um, just from first observation, it looks like she is missing, um, at least -- one, two -- probably three and a half or four of her six top front incisors. On the right side her upper and lower canines are almost entirely worn down, the left side of her mouth looks quite a bit better.

This is the least graceful skinning job I've ever done in my life. Uh, the way I cut through this frozen muscle tissue makes it look a lot like pepperoni. I want pizza. 

This appears to be some burst blood vessels. Yet unsure, uh, from what. If this wolf had died by lion, mountain lion attack, mountain lions are, um, notorious for the way that they attack -- they will go straight for the back of the neck and the occipital,so that's where you're going to find the kind of bite marks indicative of a mountain lion kill.

Whoops. There we go. Now hold for a minute. So, I, uh, since I have a lack of assistance tonight, I decided to hook her up on these hooks we've got hanging right here. Um, because the weight of her frozen head helps to create some tension against the rest of the skin, and um, so I can just kind of cut against that tension, and it'll pull her down naturally.


Well, I've almost got the head entirely free, and now that I'm pulling this back, I'm seeing uh CSI. You have two long, uh, areas of trauma, dark, bruised tissue here and on the neck and it makes me think that maybe this guy got chomped in the back of the head. I'm getting a little too excited about this.

She's still frozen. We have a microwave we could just nuke her in?


I just got really excited because I came back to start cutting at this and I realized, I didn't, I couldn't tell before, there's a, cranium has been broken right there. So... We have a loose bone right there and, uh, I'm really excited to figure out what happened here. Whoo! Whoo whoo whoo! Whoo! Whoo! CSI!

Oh, we have bone fragment. So, right here, you can see where there was, uh, some additional trauma, a burst vein and there's the first piece of cranial bone, which is why I love having tweezers.

I'm, um, removing the masseter muscles, those are the large cheek muscles. They go behind... this is the zygomatic arch right here, and you have the zygomatic bone and squamosal bone which is my favorite name for a bone ever. Squamosal. Like I'm gonna name my child Squamosal. He will be picked on a lot, I'm sure. Poor Squamosal.

That's pretty fascinating. Really cloudy. Oh, you can see bubbles in it. Cool.

That is part of the, um, back of the skull. There're a lot of, uh, bone fragments in here, and I'm coming across the brain, which is frozen. It looks like frozen cottage cheese.


I just removed the entire back of the skull cap. I hadn't realized the extent of trauma that had happened back here but it appears as if, you know, this hypothetical mountain lion came down right on the back of this wolf's head, and this entire thing, um, the back of the sagittal crest, um, was easily removed. And so now, I still have some bone in here, a lot of fragments over here, and you can see, um, all of this dark blood, this is evidence of the trauma as well. This is the, ooh, coating, that holds the brain in and attaches it to the inside of the cranium and this is brain tissue.

So here, there is no connection between the top of the zygomatic and the cranium right here, there's an open space, there's no bone. So you can literally get your finger right behind the eyeball and start pushing it forward, which is what's oozing out. So I've cleared out enough muscle tissue in the back and I'm going to come in from behind and start cutting around the eye.

Generally people don't like to pop the eye, um, because all this fluid starts coming out and if the eye is fresh, it comes out as a nice little orb and… you can kinda just pop it out. That isn't the case here. And also some of the toughest connective tissue I've ever found is that which, uh, holds the eye into the skull. So I might need a fresh scalpel for this one.

And… Here we go. One deflated wolf eyeball.

This eye came out a little bit better. It's really pretty. It totally blows my mind that this orb of fluids and tissues and squish is… what can translate into images. At this stage it just becomes another thing we put on our meat pile. On the sticky meat pile. Oh, it looks like a Muppet or something. Aah, with the little mouth.

So some of you might be wondering why it would be important for us to figure out whether or not this is a mountain lion kill. It's not like we're gonna go out with a DNA test and find the mountain lion and put it on trial, and be like, "You murdered that wolf." It's not... we're... it's nothing like that. It just gives us insight into how these ecosystems work and, um, gives us a better idea of, the dynamics of predation in our native wilderness.

I just put my hand right into the… Oh, shit... I hope that's not my blood.

Michael: Did you cut yourself?

Emily: I don't think so... I think I came pretty close. I'm just gonna, you know… go with our GOJO, green certified foam hand cleaner, and, uh, get all of that wolf blood off of my hands. I nicked my glove. And when you're working, um, when you're working in the lab and you… all of a sudden look down and there's blood all over your gloves, and there's a hole in your glove and you take the glove off, and there's blood all over your hand, you kinda wanna clarify whether or not it's your blood or wolf blood. Um. I appear to be… all right. False alarm. But I will always take the utmost precaution anyway... We good?

Got the tongue. This is actually part of the tongue. I think I accidentally cut off part of it while I was beginning, and I accidentally lacerated the top of it. But, um, it's very weird. It's got a really interesting texture on it. This is the back of the tongue, this is towards the front of the mouth and this is, um, very… It's very tongue like.

So now I'm doing this, um, not just because I want to see how wide I can get her mouth, um, but instead I am trying to feel the point of contact where the mandible is still, um, attached by muscle to the skull.

Here we go! One mandible.

I was thinking that this amount of trauma looked excessive for a mountain lion kill. Um, if this wolf wasn't killed by a mountain lion, um, perhaps it was shot. I'm finding little pieces of bullet. They, they stick out because, uh, in this mess of red and pink and blood and bone bits-y, I'll come across a very shiny little piece of copper.

o we went into this today, thinking that we were going to be looking for evidence of a mountain lion kill. Um, now that I've mostly cleaned the skull, I don't… I think it's safe to say that the force of impact is a little more excessive than you would typically find in a mountain lion kill. Usually you'll just find a couple of broken bones, but nothing to the extent of this splintering and the, uh, the extensive amount of broken bone pieces I'm finding embedded within the muscle tissue. So, uh, in other words, there's never a normal day in the zoological museum, and this has been an episode of CSI on The Brain Scoop.

(Outro and Credits)

You guys ready for this? Today will be the day where we scoop brains on The Brain Scoop.


Okay. So, um, this is kind of what I came up with out of all that brain matter. These are more pieces of bone fragments, I did not find apparently any more pieces of bullet, but I am… there's still a lot of muscle tissue to dig through.

And all the brain is down the sink now.