Previous: Chicago Adventure, Part Four: Rodents of Unusual Size (And Other Mammals, Too)
Next: Chicago Adventure, Part Six: The Spice of Life



View count:90,994
Last sync:2024-04-27 12:30


Citation formatting is not guaranteed to be accurate.
MLA Full: "Chicago Adventure, Part Five: The Platypus, The Skin, & The Cold." YouTube, uploaded by thebrainscoop, 8 July 2013,
MLA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2013)
APA Full: thebrainscoop. (2013, July 8). Chicago Adventure, Part Five: The Platypus, The Skin, & The Cold [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2013)
Chicago Full: thebrainscoop, "Chicago Adventure, Part Five: The Platypus, The Skin, & The Cold.", July 8, 2013, YouTube, 05:45,


The Brain Scoop is hosted and written by:
Emily Graslie

Created By:
Hank Green

Directed, Edited, and Scored by:
Michael Aranda

Assistant Editor:
Stefan Chin

I've got a special place in my heart for Martina Šafusová, Diana Raynes, Hervé Saint Raymond, Barbara Velázquez, Tony Chu, John-Alan Pascoe, Seth Bergenholtz, and Kelleen Browning because they transcribed and translated this video!
This episode of the Brain Scoop is brought to you by a fabulously generous contribution from Heather Hsu.

[intro music]

Emily Graslie: The Chicago field museum is one of the largest and most respected museums in the world. Join me as we go behind the scenes -- dun dun DUN!

[card: The Mammal Collections]

Emily: There it is.

Bill Stanley, collections manager: Pull that drawer open.

Emily: I'm scared. [opens drawer with platypi] Oh my gosh. Why did nature, WHY? He has eyes on him! Oh my gosh! Why? Oh, weird! Is this the mandible? What are these teeth? Wh-- 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 don't they go out, why don't they have cusps?

Bill: I don't know.

Emily: Does any-- oh-- wha-- why? Look at this thing. Oh my -- it looks like 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... it looks so weird!

Bill: And you know about the spines, right?

Emily: Yeah! They have poisonous spines.

Bill: Yeah. There you go.

Emily: What. What? In its feet?

Bill: See 'em? Right there.

Emily: [gasps] What? Ew, weird! Look at that! What kind of... venom?

Bill: Its 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.

Emily: Crazy.

Bill: But there's still so much we don't know about these animals. This is why we have these 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.

Emily: I just don't even understand why everybody even isn't a platypus scientist, because they're the craziest things I've ever seen in my life. I don't even...

Bill: And people, often, they get the idea that the duck bill is quite hard, uh...

Emily: Yeah.

Bill: It's stiff now, but in life it's actually quite leathery soft.

Emily: It's rubbery.

Bill: Yeah, there's a lot of nerves running between those teeth and the beak there that are how they are sensing the invertebrates that are in the mud.

Emily: 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. [laughs] I don't know.

[card: The Skin Refrigerators]

Anna Goldman, mammal preparation lab manager: So, some skins are too big to keep indoors with everybody else, so we have these three giant skin refrigerators.

Emily: Okay.

Anna: And this is where we store, um...

Emily: Oh, pullin' out the key.

Anna: Spare series in here.

Emily: I can imagine why.

Wow! Wow! It's like our cold room except huge! These are amazing! You have grizzlies, you have polar bears!

Anna: So people, rich folk, who got rugs, they're like, "y'know, I don't need this any more" so they donate rugs, so we've got these, like, modified polar bear rugs.

Emily: Oh my god, they're huge! Is that a panda?

Anna: There's a panda.

Emily: That's a panda! You have pandas! Dogs?

Anna: German shepherd.

Emily: Ew! Weird! I guess, I mean, you gotta save 'em.

Anna: Yeah.

Emily: You have, like, sloths and weird things in here. Tanned hides...

Anna: And so these are more...

Emily: African lion! Wow!

Anna: 1935, which when you think about it doesn't really seem that long ago, in the grand scheme of things.

Emily: No.

Anna: But 1905. And you can see, like, where they were shot, like, you can see the holes.

Emily: Yeah. Wow...

Anna: It's-- they're such gorgeous specimens.

[card: Cryogenic Storage]

[Kathleen retrieves an ice-covered rack from a metal tank]

Emily: That is so cool. That is so space-age! So, uh, this is DNA from what, exactly?

Kathleen Kelly, assistant collection manager: These are all tissue samples of amphibians and reptiles.

Emily: Okay. And how many can fit in one of these containers?

Kathleen: Usually, there are 100 tissue vials in a box.

Emily: In one of those.

Kathleen: In one of these. You see, there's that little grid, so, 1-100. And then we have 13 boxes in every rack.

Emily: So 1300.

Kathleen: And then we have 54 racks.

Emily: I'm not that good at math.

Kathleen: About 70,000 vials.

Emily: Really! 70,000 in each one of the tanks.

Kathleen: Yes.

Emily: That's a lot of vials.

Kathleen: It is, and so we have to be really well organized.

Emily: Yeah! Well organized and, um, it looks like it's kind of dangerous.

Kathleen: Well, if you're not wearing gloves, it's dangerous.

Emily: Yeah! I mean, those are some pretty heavy duty gloves. That's really cool.

And so, you're-- do they, um, take tissue samples from every specimen that comes in now, every new one?

Kathleen: We like to have tissue samples of everything, if possible. We actually just got a collection in from Honduras today, and everything came with a tissue sample.

Emily: Woo, so it's kind of becoming standard practice for natural history museums to just keep parts of DNA.

Kathleen: Yes. Well, it's really important that they collect a tissue sample before they pickle it, because the formalin...

Emily: Yeah, destroys the DNA.

That's wonderful.

And so, potentially, with having the DNA sample what it... what're you gonna do with it now? Just hold onto it and see what science...

Kathleen: The sky's the limit. 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 samples, we'll send it to them.

Emily: That's awesome. That's really fascinating.


Emily: It still has brains on it.