Preserved Dissection Specimens

Specimens and preserved animals for dissection.

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Shop the HST store for high-quality, long lasting, preserved specimens for dissection.

HST specimens fit homeschool curriculums, classroom labs, and co-op projects.

You’ll find that our specimens come in a variety of sizes, quantities, and kits. Invertebrate specimens (animals without backbones) include clams, crayfish, earthworms, grasshoppers, squid, and starfish. Vertebrate specimens (animals with backbones, muscles, and skeletons) include fetal pigs, fish, frogs, lampreys, minks, pigeons, rabbits, rats, sharks, snakes, and turtles.

We also sell mammal organs for dissection. You can choose from a cow’s eye and a sheep’s heart, eye, kidney, brain, uterus or pluck.

Order 10+ of any specimen and receive a bulk discount!

Preserved Specimen Shelf Life

We guarantee your specimen(s) will arrive fully preserved and void of decay. Your specimen(s) will also stay moist for one year after delivery (again, guaranteed).

Your specimens do not need refrigeration. Which means, you won’t have to worry about them touching or contaminating your food (thankfully!). For best results, keep them out of direct sunlight. You’ll also want to store them in a room that doesn’t trap heat (i.e., not the attic).

Your preserved specimens may discolor over time. This is normal and does not signal decay.

Seal your dissected specimens in a Ziploc bag after use. Be sure to remove any air pockets. Ideally, you’ll want to finish a dissection within a week. If that’s not possible, you can refresh the specimen with glycerin

The Preservation Process

Chemical solutions preserve animal specimens. These solutions are also known as fixatives or embalming fluids. You may remember formaldehyde from your lab days in schools. That’s the “chemical” smell many of us… despise.

But, fortunately, we use a lot less formaldehyde today. We use it as an initial preservative, before displacing it with a glycol solution. Then we displace the glycol with a water solution. The infamous “preservative” smell? It's almost nonexistent!

(Some fish specimens, like perch and dogfish, may contain a trace, natural scent.)

We recommend that your students wear latex or nitrile disposable gloves during dissections. We also recommend eye protection, to avoid traces of solution, during dissections.

HST sells plain, single-injected, and double-injected specimens. Plain specimens are exactly as they sound—nothing added. You can see the arteries in a single injection; they’re red. In a double injection, you can see red arteries and blue veins. The injections are rubber or latex.

All preserved specimens come with a safety data sheet.

The Role of Preservatives in Dissection Specimens

Preservatives keep dissection specimens limber and flexible. They also prevent decay and the spread of disease. They allow us to ship unspoiled specimens to street addresses in the United States (all 50 states).

Without preservatives, animal dissections would be rare and expensive. Why? You would need access to recently-dead (“fresh”) specimens. You would also have to work fast to avoid decomposition. Finally, you would need medical-grade protective clothing to avoid bacterial and fungal diseases.

Conducting dissections with preserved specimens has led to breakthroughs in anatomy, biology, and other life sciences.

For more ideas, see our Owl Pellet Kit.