A Western Kentucky University professor whose constructed animal skeletons have been on display across the country is having some of his work compiled in a book.

For 20 years biology professor Steve Huskey has constructed the skeletons of vertebrates ranging from fish to snakes to birds, he said.

Despite a name that suggests building skeletons out of other materials, skeleton construction involves positioning the body of a deceased animal, skinning it, drying it out and having a colony of flesh-eating beetles strip away all remaining flesh, Huskey said.

One of Huskey's university instructors introduced him to the process roughly two decades ago, he said.

"As soon as I first saw a skeleton come out of a beetle box, I was hooked," he said.

The idea is to arrange the animal's skeleton in a way that reflects its nature, Huskey said.

"You try to construct the organism in a way that resembles what you'd see if you saw it running through the forest or swimming through the ocean," he said.

His skeletons have ended up on display in a wide variety of institutions including the California Academy of Sciences, Harvard University and the Field Museum in Chicago, he said.

Huskey said the book, "The Skeleton Revealed: An Illustrated Tour of the Vertebrates," contains pictures with text that explains the behaviors, anatomical features and habitats of each anima. He described the book as "the thinking man's coffee table book."

"The Skeleton Revealed" is a 360-page volume that includes 192 black and white photos, according to publisher Johns Hopkins University Press' website.

"Using skeletal preparations he has spent decades assembling, Huskey helps us understand why animals live the way they do," according to the website.

Photos that illustrate the jaw and fang structures that enable snakes to consume their prey whole and how the eastern mole's physique allows it to "swim through soil," are two examples.

"The Skeleton Revealed" is available on the Johns Hopkins University Press website for $49.95.

With roughly 200 different animals, the book includes probably one fourth or one fifth of all the animal skeletons Huskey has constructed, he said.

"I could have made this book a thousand pages long," he said, adding that the book represents the pieces he had the best photographs of.

Huskey said he hopes the book fosters an appreciation for wildlife in the people who read it.

— Follow Daily News reporter Jackson French on Twitter @Jackson_French or visit bgdailynews.com.


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