If I cast a dead squid in plastic, will it rot?
November 30, 2008 10:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm going squid hunting next weekend (Humboldt Squid running rampant in Half Moon Bay!) and I want to memorialize my catch. Does anyone know what would happen if I just froze one then cast it in plastic? Are there other preservation options?
posted by miffed to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
Freezing and encasing it in plastic definitely won't work. There are bacteria in the squid's gut that will survive freezing and can decompose the thing without needing oxygen. The Mythbusters did something similar when they encased a dead pig in cement, the cement cracked and was spewing out noxious gasses in short order. Your best bet is to talk to a taxidermist, they should be able to preserve it in a much more hygienic manner.
posted by TungstenChef at 10:51 PM on November 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

yup, call a taxidermist.
Realize that it probably won't be all that cheap, as I don't think squid are a common request, so it'll likely require some jiggering.

Alterntatively, you could do it Damien Hirst style.

Have fun, man. Cephalopods (and especially squid) are so cool.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:25 PM on November 30, 2008

I wonder if soaking it in formaldehyde for a week might kill off any bacteria present -- THEN encase it in plastic. It probably still wouldn't work, but it might.
posted by Class Goat at 11:41 PM on November 30, 2008

Thie and this make it sound like they can be preserved in alchohol, but it does sound like awfully hard work. And even Hirst's shark didn't last.
posted by mjg123 at 12:29 AM on December 1, 2008

oh, or encased in ice.
posted by mjg123 at 12:33 AM on December 1, 2008

Best answer: You could always just pickle it in a jar of formaldehyde (an excellent and inexpensive tissue preservative, but hazardous: work in a fume hood) or gluteraldehyde. Such an object could potentially be aesthetically appealing in a very, very creepy way.

Here is a patent which describes how to preserve the body of an animal without having to remove any of its organs. After soaking it in the tissue preservative (exact concentrations are listed), you take out the body, shape it into a giggle-inducing contortion, and let it dry in the shade where it will harden. This protocol uses alcohol, boric acid, phenol and salt in addition to formaldehyde: all chemicals you could easily order from a scientific supply company.

Or you could always contact this guy and find out how he did it:
To make a long story short, the process of fully preserving a specimen is very meticulous for you must work on the squid and control is postioning in a very confined space with it submerged in a preservation fluid. The specimen must be watched and controlled carefuly for the first couple days because after this, its position will not be modifiable. Stomach contents must be carefully removed prior to reduce excessive leaking into the flood. Gas build up in the squids body is also a concern that needs to be dealt with. The entire process takes 3 weeks to a month.
posted by halogen at 1:28 AM on December 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think I meant to say formalin instead of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde works great with my unfortunate bacteria, though.
posted by halogen at 1:32 AM on December 1, 2008

Clear plastic resin is surprisingly expensive. Talk to a taxidermist before you head out.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:53 AM on December 1, 2008

Damien Hurst style.
Here's some examples:
posted by whoda at 5:06 AM on December 1, 2008

Have you considered making a plaster cast? That would be the easiest, cheapest, and most permanent thing, although you would need a lot of plaster.
posted by TedW at 6:28 AM on December 1, 2008

I once preserved McDonalds hamburgers in a jar of ethanol (Popov vodka). They were completely inert for over a year before I moved and lost track of them.

Formalehyde and methanol are both commonly used to preserve tissue samples in labs. They cross-link the proteins and (to use technical terminology) prevent the creepy crud from growing. Formaldehyde is fairly toxic, but those old specimen jars you see in schools have held up for decades. I would bet that 99% ethanol or methanol would work and be much less toxic. Vodka is only around 50% alcohol, so I'd spring for some lab grade stuff.
posted by abirae at 8:29 AM on December 1, 2008

The only durable part of a squid is the beak. The beak is a marvel itself: beaks founds in whale stomachs have long been used as a window into the otherwise largely unseen world of deep-water squid species and most recently, studies on how squids can do the equivalent of "anchoring a knife blade in Jell-O" have discovered properties which might lead to better artificial limbs. Really, I can't think of a better item to represent your squid fishing trip than a dried beak and a photo of you with your catch.
posted by jamaro at 8:43 AM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Actually mgj123's links are much more comprehensive than the old "plunk it in alcohol" method that I was advocating. It seems that formalin is still the top choice for turning critters into malleable decorative objects. It seems from the protocol that the bigger the squid, the more careful you have to be injecting the preservative so that it reaches all the tissue. And I forgot just how massive a squid can be. Massive!
posted by abirae at 8:45 AM on December 1, 2008

Wait, I thought of another: a Gyotaku print. You'll need a large roll of thick paper or canvas and a paint roller. You'll have plenty of ink on the boat.
posted by jamaro at 8:53 AM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here is some information about preserving giant squids.
posted by singingfish at 11:54 AM on December 1, 2008

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