Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Take a behind-the-scenes look at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s panther research through the new exhibit, “The Beetles: A Skeleton Crew,” opening Saturday and on display through Jan. 17, 2011.

The free exhibit features photographs by Eric Zamora and Jeff Gage documenting panther research and the museum’s use of flesh-eating dermestid beetles to clean specimens before they are stored in the collections or displayed in an exhibit.

“This exhibit gives you a chance to see nature’s clean-up crew in action,” said Gage, the Florida Museum’s photographer.

Visitors also can discover how researchers are collecting information to help preserve and protect Florida panthers.

As the state natural history museum, the Florida Museum serves as the official repository for panthers found dead throughout the state. The museum collects information from each panther and maintains a database available to researchers studying the endangered species.

Florida Museum mammalogy collections manager Candace McCaffery said studies conducted at the museum have shown female and male panthers eat different prey. Studying the remains of the panthers also helps researchers gather information about the overall health of the endangered population.

“Many different researchers use this collection to look at environmental and genetic aspects of this endangered species,” McCaffery said.

Zamora, who photographed a time sequence of beetles cleaning a panther skull for the exhibit, said he hopes the display will emphasize the need to protect these animals and conserve their environment.

This exhibit is suitable for visitors of all ages.

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Source: Jeffrey Gage, 352-273-2038,
Candace McCaffery, 352-273-2114,
Writer: Leeann Bright
Media contact: Paul Ramey, 352-273-2054,