Cold Plastination for Preservation of Zoological Specimens for Education and Research
2018 Joint EAZWV/AAZV/Leibniz-IZW Conference
Paul B. Nader, DVM; Ismael Concha, DVM, MSc; Robert W. Henry, DVM, PhD
College of Veterinary Medicine, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN, USA


Plastination is a novel technique for long-term preservation of soft-tissues using silicone polymer. Specimen morphology is maintained. Using cold-impregnation for plastination the comparative gross anatomy of the hearts of various marine mammals, including blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus),1 sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), ringed seal (Phoca hispida), and the Caribbean manatee (Trichechus manatus), demonstrated similar anatomical structures supporting their phylogenic relationships. These anatomical characteristics included the dilatation of the ascending aorta, a broad bifid apex, and the compression of the heart along the auricular to atrial axis. The plastination of the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) heart revealed multiple similar anatomical characteristics to these marine mammals and thus suggesting its phylogenic relationship to the marine mammals. Plastinated fetal specimens of two domestic mammals, domestic cattle (Bos taurus) and domestic horse (Equus caballus), were compared with plastinated fetal specimens of wildlife species, bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and Grampus whale (Grampus griseus). With preservation via plastination, delicate soft-tissues of the placenta can be more easily studied and presented to professional students for study and research. Plastination of the laryngeal assembly and its associated hyoid apparatus was accomplished in the white rhinoceros (Ceratherium simus) and compared to the same tissue structure assembly in the domestic horse (Equus caballus) as a preservation technique displaying both similarities and differences between two species of perissodactylids. Whole body or organ specimens, which are preserved via cold-impregnation technique, serve as powerful educational tools and equally valuable for research purposes.


The authors would like to thank the Biodur Company and the Royal Ontario Museum for their assistance in the study of the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) heart. Likewise the authors would like to thank the White Oak Conservation Center and the North Carolina Maritime Museum for their assistance in the study of the white rhinoceros (Ceratherium simus) laryngeal assembly and cetacean feti, respectively.

Literature Cited

1.  Miller, J, Nader, P, Chereminskiy, V, Von Hagens, G, Engstrom, M, Henry, RW. Massive hollow organ plastination: The challenge of preserving a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) heart; J. Plast. 29 (In Press)


Speaker Information
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Paul B. Nader, DVM
College of Veterinary Medicine
Lincoln Memorial University
Harrogate, TN, USA

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