Sometimes skin, feathers and the more fleshy parts of an animal are just in the way of the part that we need to study. So how do museums get nice clean skeletal specimens? Some museums use harsh chemicals, like hydrogen peroxide and carbon tetrachloride, to eat away the flesh — but this technique can cause damage to the bones as well as molecular changes. The Natural History Museum in London has found a greener solution: flesh-eating beetles.

In the time-lapse footage above, you can see the beetles strip a parrot, owl and pheasant down to just bones. It is surprising how clean the entire process seems. The beetles, which eat 4kg of flesh a week, leave the bones and collagen untouched.

Working with the flesh-eating beetles, Dermestes maculatus, does come with some unique hazards, however. The museum staff needs to take extra care in securing them. They will eat any organic material they can get to, including the collections of stuffed animals and skins.

For live up-to-the-minute devouring action check out the Natural History Museum's flesh-eating beetle cam, and see what's for dinner.

Via Smart News and the Natural History Museum in London.