Dissecting Owl Pellets

April 4th, 2009

My first period at school is Science, and when I came into class yesterday morning the teacher said, “Today we’re going to the lab, and we’re going to dissect owl pellets.” My first thought was, what is an owl pellet?  Then she said, “An owl pellet is owl vomit.” Then everyone said, “Ewwww!”

When we went to the lab we got into partners, and she gave each partner an owl pellet wrapped in tinfoil. Then she asked us if we wanted gloves. I used gloves, but the owl pellets are sanitized.

She told us that we are supposed to break open the owl pellet with our hands. On the inside there will be lots of bones because owls don’t have any teeth, and when they eat animals they can’t chew their bones. You can see an owl pellet and the kind of bones that are inside it in the picture.

My partner and I broke up the owl pellet, and there were tons of bones inside! We found lots of leg bones and six skulls! She gave us a sheet of paper that shows us which bones are from each animal. We found three mole skulls and some bird skulls. There were even some bugs and seeds from what the animal had in its belly when the owl ate it. It was so cool!

Never in my life did I think I would be messing with owl vomit! It was kind of gross but it was so interesting and I’m glad that we got to do it!

This Science lab went with what we’ve been learning about this week. We’ve been learning about food chains and energy webs. Another thing I thought was cool is that plants (the producers) get their energy from the Sun and then if a rabbit eats the plant, the energy gets passed on to it. Then a snake eats the rabbit and then the energy gets passed on to it and so on.

I really like Science.

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7 Responses to “Dissecting Owl Pellets”

  1. Tom |

    Again, Amber, you’re teaching me stuff I didn’t know! I had no idea that owls puke and that people actually dissect it and analyze it. But I guess I never really wanted to know that….

    I remember dissecting frogs, but I think that was in high school. I know it was pretty yucky. Maybe you’ll get a chance to do that in the future. Of course, if you go to medical school like you want to, you’ll be dissecting a lot more than frogs!

  2. Brian |

    I still take the time to examine the gastric contents of the animals I harvest. You are heading down a fascinating part of life, Amber. There are few things as exciting or rewarding as discovering some new Truth that was hidden from you, and discovering it for yourself. I have a voracious appetite for reading technical books (novels, too), but there’s just nothing like getting your hands “dirty” in the real stuff.

    This world has been made “livable” and comfortable by people with minds just like yours.

  3. rob |

    Amber, perhaps you would be surprised to know that your post makes me think that … it’s amazing how a thoughtful reading can look like dissecting owl pellets. A good way of reading involves a similar “will to go into” what the book is really about … 😉

  4. duggy |

    The Owl is very useful bird to have around. I’ve managed to entice a couple to live on my property. They eat mice and snakes, both of which I seem to be overly blessed with.
    Isn’t it amazing how life has so much to offer. Study and learn everything you can. Life is even better when you understand whats going on.

  5. Kevin |

    This sort of research is opening whole new vistas of scientific discovery. With most animal species it’s the feces that are dissected and inspected, but the goals are exactly the same as with the pellet dissection.

    I just watched a program last week about how archaeologists and anthropologists in Eastern Oregon are learning huge amounts just from dissecting coprolite, which is the scientific term for fossilized feces. It’s amazing what they can learn from it. For example, based on what was being eaten 10,000 years ago they can figure out what the weather was like back then – whether it was hot or cold, wet or dry – because all plants and animals have preferred climates. So if they find bones or seeds in the coprolite then they know what was growing and living in the area. And from that they can figure out what the weather was like.

  6. Kim |

    I’m an elementary school science teacher and my second graders do a big unit on “creatures of the night” we have been working with owl pellets for years, it is without saying that this is one of our favorite labs, my students get such a kick from finding bones, feathers, plants, and insects. Yhey mount the bones on a chart i give them it looks very cool when their all done. Some take them home and frame them.

  7. Amber |

    Yea I think its so fun! Thats cool that they frame them. I think its one of my favorite labs too.

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