How to soften formalin fixed tissue ?

Daniel Geiger dgeiger at
Thu Apr 27 14:49:18 EST 1995

I have a problem with a rare gastropod (Pterotrochus maureri) of which I would
like to extract the animal from the shell. The shell is approximately 60 mm
in height and trochiform with the animal considerably retracted into the shell.
The specimen had been formalin fixed, therefore is fairly hard by now, and the
animal is difficult to extract without damaging the shell. The specimen is now
stored in alcohol to prevent further damage of the shell by formalin. 
Mechanical damage of the shell is out of question, because the specimen is a 

Does anybody know a method of softening the animal tissue which is additionally
not harmfull to the calcareous shell?  I am looking forward to your replies
and suggestions.

Daniel Geiger  (dgeiger at

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