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Skulls: An Exploration of Alan Dudley's Curious Collection

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  • Posted February 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    In our bodies, the framework for muscles, tendons and ligaments

    In our bodies, the framework for muscles, tendons and ligaments is the skeleton, topped by a skull, a face as unique as each creature itself. Whether it be a reptile, primate, eel, catfish, frog, newt or penguin, the skull houses the central processing unit, the brain. This powers each animal, bird or snake. Teeth highlight the jaw and in some, a prominent brow ridge or horns crown the whole in magnificent glory.
    Alan Dudley was fascinated by skulls. At an early age, he found the body of a dead fox and brought it home to inspect it in greater detail. However, prepping the skull for collection proved to be a bit of a trial. Maggots, which feasted on the flesh of the carcass, were often a little overzealous, leading to damage of fine bone. The alternative was to soak each skull in water for a very, very long period of time, allowing the natural bacteria to run their course. This avenue proved to be extremely smelly, but very effective and at last, Dudley’s collection began to grow in earnest.
    Unfortunately, Dudley’s zeal for collecting led him to obtain the skulls of a few endangered species, which ultimately progressed to his arrest. Nevertheless, Dudley’s collection remains one of the most detailed accounts of fauna on the planet.
    Kudos to Nick Mann’s numerous photographs, too. These illustrate with brilliant clarity the extensive variations in each skull, often from multiple angles. This book is essential for zoologists and students of biology. It is also a stunning, unique gift and a perfect accent for your coffee table.

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