Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Happy 75th Anniversary SPAM®!

We recently learned that this year marks the 75th anniversary of SPAM®. Most of us in Life Sciences have a sentimental fondness for SPAM®. Adrian loves to dig into some SPAM® fried rice now and then. And this classic Monty Python bit, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anwy2MPT5RE, amuses Terry on many levels. But the biggest SPAM® fans of all reside in our Insect Village. Twice a week, we offer our Hide beetles a fresh slice of this lovable lunchmeat.

Hide beetles, Dermestis maculatus, are scavengers. In the wild, both adults and larvae eat dead animal tissue, cleaning it right down to the bone. They can infest rawhide and leather products, but they can also be quite helpful to scientists. For instance, many natural history museums keep populations of Hide beetles in house, and use them to clean animal skeletons for display. And in the field of forensic science, they can be helpful in police investigations. The life stage of the Hide beetle larvae found in a corpse can help scientists pinpoint the time of death.

An obvious question poses itself: If these bugs feed off of decomposing, rotting animal tissue, then why do we feed them something as tasty as SPAM®? We choose it for many of the same reasons people eat SPAM® in their everyday lives. It’s easy, it has a long shelf-life, it’s affordable, and the animals like it. Best of all, it’s not offensive. If we were to put actual decomposing animal tissue, such as a dead mouse, in the Hide beetle enclosure, nobody with a nose would want to go near that cage! So, SPAM® it is.

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