Wet specimens 1

[an excerpt description from a longer essay on voucher specimens in the Hudson River estuary]

Chelydra serpentina. BCFS-16. Like the other specimens here, these turtles are long dead, all five of them. Some were found at a railroad, others the consequences of an experiment. Parts of the labeling tag have been obscured by the 50 percent isopropenol–fixed bodies, but I can deduce the familiar beak-like jaws of these creatures. The latter part of their binomial nomenclature, serpentina, means “snake-like” in Latin, referring to the once mobile necks and heads before me. The shells of these baby snapping turtles are ridged, brown with yellowed stains. One of the reptiles, darker than the rest, is especially contorted. It’s tail and hind legs have twisted together from the preservation process and from the pressure of the other bodies. It is upside down, belly-up, and its right paw reaches upwards, protruding away from the rest of the body, toward the lid. The beak hangs open, its eyes bulging and dark. Underneath, another’s body is twisted too, like a poor man bent with tetanus. This one’s neck strains backwards, one claw stretching below the head, its nails extending in unnatural directions. The entire jar is a play on gravity, a hodgepodge of bodies, a distorted representation of a nest.

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One response to “Wet specimens 1

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