A Thank-You to Readers… With Some Awesome Giraffe Anatomy
December 2, 2012 by John of the Freezers
I have a lot to be thankful for as a scientist, including a great, steady set of blog readers interested in my freezer and its sundry tenants. And now and then I get a fun surprise, like Redditors stumbling across my posts and ramping up my blog views by a factor of 10-20 fold. So this weekend I did (and am still doing at this moment) an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) on Reddit, by suggestion, and I just crossed 1000 Twitter followers. So I figure I should give some thanks.
And I will give those thanks in a way that I can only do on this blog. With kickass pictures of incredible animal anatomy! Much as I started this blog with giraffes, I will return to them now. And I will let the pictures, with brief captions, tell the tale. These photos are from a dissection our team did quite a few years ago, on an adult giraffe that died suddenly in a local zoo. I forget who snapped these photos– my thanks to them anyway, as I didn’t take them but it was someone from our team.
Stomach-Churning Rating: a 7/10 or even 8/10, depending on your fortitude. Blood, a freshly dead animal, guts, brains, and more. So before we go further, while you brace yourself if need be, a pic to liven things up. Here I am with my cat (taken a few years ago, too), wishing you Happy Holidays — and much fortitude.
Away we go!
Left side of the neck. Purplish-blue vessel toward the bottom/eft is the jugular vein, shown next. Nuchal ligament, shown further below, is toward the top.
The jugular vein, opened to show the valves (little pockets), which prevent blood from flowing back down the neck.
Cross-section of trachea (windpipe). A narrow tube should give less dead space to move in/out with each breath, so it makes sense for such a huge, long-necked animal to have such a thin trachea.
The nuchal ligament, which runs along the spine and helps hold up that long neck.
The big heart, needed to pump blood up that long neck to the head. Compare with the elephant and rhino hearts posted here before.
Left shoulder and ribcage, muscles of the triceps peeled back. Shoulder blade (scapula) visible. The neck extends up to the left corner.
Left side of chest, rumen (fermenting tank) showing through behind ribcage. Forelimb has been entirely removed here.
The left cheek’s teeth (molars)– and check out the spines on the inside of the cheek! They are keratinous growths to aid in chewing, food movement, digestion, protection against thorns, etc. These extend into the stomach, too! These amazed me the first time I saw them, in an okapi (giraffe cousin).
The brain, in bottom view. Olfactory nerves leading to the nostrils near the top (whitish), and optic chiasm for the eyes (“X” shape behind the olfactory nerves) are visible, then the medulla oblongata, smallish cerebellum and the spinal cord. For a human brain diagrammed and labelled in similar view, see here.
Like rhinos, elephants and many other large mammals, giraffes (especially in captivity) are vulnerable to foot/hoof pathologies, such as this very skewed/divergent pair of nails on the right front foot. This can lead to them walking very abnormally, getting infections or arthritis and other problems, so it is very serious.
- The tapetum lucidum; reflective coating of the eye that can aid in night vision and protect the eye a bit. Gorgeous!
Hope to see you again here soon!