- Hide captionFeather forensic expert Carla Dove makes a slide of a partially digested bird feather taken from the autopsy of a Burmese python in Florida's Everglades National Park. Park officials mailed the stomach contents of eight pythons to Dove's lab at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History so she could identify the types of birds the pythons had eaten.Marie McGrory/NPR
- Hide captionThese partially digested specimens were cleaned, dried and labeled by the National Park Service in Florida and mailed to Dove's lab. The larger bag contains a python's ID number and is filled with smaller bags labeling each specimen.Marie McGrory/NPR
- Hide captionDove has a good sense of the species she may be looking for. She pulls out a limpkin (a cranelike bird that lives in Florida) from one of the many drawers in the museum's bird collection to compare its feathers with her sample.Marie McGrory/NPR
- Hide captionThe ornithologist works through the feathers of the stuffed birds to find one that matches her sample.Marie McGrory/NPR
A keen eye and extensive knowledge of feathers allows forensic ornithologist Carla Dove (yes, that's her name) figure out from feather and bone fragments which type of bird crashed into a plane or was eaten by a snake. But the expertise has an uncertain future.
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