Posts Tagged ‘hippo’

I’m not sure if this is a new tradition at this blog or not (probably not), but hey let’s give it a name: an Anatomy Vignette. Just something curious I notice during my research that deserves more than just a tweet. I borrowed some bones from the University of Cambridge Museum of Zoology (whom I love, because they have great exhibits and are very research-friendly) to CT scan for some projects. I noticed this:


And I thought “Ouch! That’s nasty, dude.” (the holes in the bone just above the knee joint– these should just be a roughened area where the adductor muscles and other leg muscles attach)

So I was interested to see the CT scan images to find out how these possibly osteomyelitic lesions continued into the bone. They’re really pervasive, continuing into the marrow cavity quite far up the femur, as this shows (good CT-viewing practice to match up what you are seeing in the photo above with this movie):

I would be surprised if this was not the reason this animal died (presumably being euthanased at a UK zoo). There would have been extensive infection and pain resulting from this bony disease. How did it originate? Who knows. Maybe the animal strained a muscle and bacteria got inside, or maybe there was a fall or other injury. Hard to tell.

Oh, and also note the lack of a true marrow cavity in hippos, which is true for all the long bones. The “cavity” is filled in with cancellous bone. Same with rhinos, elephants, and many other species… science doesn’t entirely know why but this feature surely does help support the body on land, and grants at least some extra negative buoyancy in water; at a cost of some extra weight to lug around, of course.

And so ends this Anatomy Vignette.

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Well, I happened to take some more photos of a few of my favourite skeletons/bones from our Anatomy Museum during my last jaunt over to our Camden campus, and figured I might as well share them. So here you go! (Right now it’s so hot I wish I was a skeleton! Gigantothermy is not always so great) First, two views of our seated polar bear, which I learned this week is a celebrity– a model for the kickass armoured polar bears in the film The Golden Compass:


Then, also out in our cafe area you’ll find some nice smaller specimens in addition to our elephant. Such as:

A decent mount of a three-toed sloth is above; and below I’ll share several skulls including a second hippo (male? quite different morphology from the other one I showed):

And another charismatic megafauna, a ?black? rhinoceros (shown previously as a mounted skeleton in our old hall):

And a small gharial (Gavialis) skull:

Which can be nicely juxtaposed with a more robust Caiman (or our earlier Alligator):

And then a small wallaby:

Let’s go back inside. I have a few more friends for you to meet. Such as our chimp next to a Lucy skeleton (both casts), briefly glimpsed in my first post:

And a really, really gnarly-faced bulldog! Shudder.

During my brief perusal of the exhibits the other day, I realized I had never shared our nice knee joint dissection in my post on those specimens, nor had I included it in my knotations about knee joints. This is particularly egregious as I am now doing a year-long fellowship/sabbatical to study knee joints, in particular the patella (kneecap) of birds. Here, a dog, with helpful labels of the anatomy around the stifle:

And that’s all folks! I’m preparing a particularly wacky post for later, which will include lots of whimsical anatomy, so stay tuned and keep coooooooool!

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Well, here we are at the end of our virtual tour of the RVC’s little-anatomy-museum-that-could. Soon we will return to our regularly scheduled programme of dismembered cadavers and frozen body segments. I know you’ve missed them.

This post has a Stomach-Churning Rating (SCR) of 2/10, unless either penis bones or the backs of knees really gross you out (then maybe 4/10 at worst, although there is a link hidden in the text that might really freak you out).

OK, here we go. You might remember this chap, the famed racehorse Foxhunter:

And the museum features sundry other domestic-type species and their close kin, such as this sheep (a Soay Ram):

And this skeleton that is probably also a sheep, unless it is a tricky goat (notice framed photo of Bodyworlds exhibit on wall):

As well as his barnyard buddy, a quite robust pig:

But I want to focus more here on the surprises that the museum’s collection of skeletons has to offer, like this tiger poised below the pig:

Along with a wide assortment of smaller mammals such as this kinkajou coatimundi (note: label is wrong; see this Twitter chat we had that solved this mystery):

And a rhesus monkey (our primate skeletal collection is not shabby at all!):

And a whole shelf of ossified dog (and other carnivore) penises, oh joy! (os baculum; the “penis bone” of various Primata, Rodentia, Insectivora, Carnivora and Chiroptera– the infamous mnemonic P.R.I.C.C. of comparative anatomy):

But, great as penises may be and much as the internet may love them, there is much more to see here. Carry on reading, or incur the wrath of the giant fossil walrus baculum [oosik]! (this, Freezerinos, is called an argument ad baculum, I have just discovered; had to share!)

As I mentioned way back in my first post, what really sold me on the museum when I first viewed it back in 2003 was the megafauna! Here’s a photo I dug up of how the rhino used to appear in the museum’s old settings:

And the hippo was close by:

My off-with-their heads bias rears its ugly cranial appendage here, but I’ve already shown you its skull, so rest easy craniophiles; you had your day of glory. It’s time to kneel before Zod, or in this case kneel before my collection of animal knee photos! I hate to remind you of the trauma, but I did promise this with the mystery emu knee dissection, so suppress your PTSD [knee TSD?] and come along quietly now… Let an elephant knee soothe your tortured soul (from here on, all knees are left knees, in caudal/rear view):

I’m going to continue on without providing longwinded interpretations. I’ll leave you to draw your own, and just enjoy the diversity of knee anatomy, with some surprises toward the end. Descending in the size scale from multi-tonnes to semi-tonnes, first, a rhino:

And then our hippo:

The RVC does not have a mounted giraffe skeleton but I can show you the knee from our dissections, now nice and tidy (note the absence of a fibula, reduced to a small tarsal (ankle) bone in many artiodactyls– but not pigs or hippos as you can see above; what consequences this change has for knee joint mechanics is entirely unknown! However, the fibula has such a small/nonexistent connection to the femur/knee joint in many large mammals that the consequences may be negligible; who knows.):

Now, a horse of course:

One reason I find knees so fascinating scientifically is that they are mechanically so complex (and often over-simplified as simple hinges) and yet so fragile (knee injuries are common in many species; poorly adapted humans in particular! To wit…). But I also love knees because they feature prominently in discussions of form and function in extinct animals; in particular, dinosaurs. Let’s not forget Scrotum humanum, either…

Consider a few representative dinosaur images (mostly from the AMNH; not RVC!) here, starting with my old pal Tyrannosaurus (sorry, dislocated knee in this mount; ouch!):

Now, a ceratopsian (probably Triceratops??), I think; photo-labelling fail! Could easily be some sort of hadrosaur or something, though:

For what its worth, sans massive cartilages, a sauropod knee to round out the holy trinity of Dinosauria:

Consider here how the fibula plays a greater role in the dinosaurian knee joint (as in birds, too, to some degree), compared with the mammals above. But also consider the whopping amount of soft tissues missing here, as made evident in the emu post. Daunting indeed.

We kneed to know more about knees before we can knavigate their aknatomy and make knew iknfereknces about their fukntiokn! And so I’m coming back full circle to my earlier anatomical studies this year to look more closely at knees in a variety of species; more about that later.

And that’s the end. I hope you liked the kneet photos and knurture the kneed to come back for my knext post, which will kontain more knormal spellikng.

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Last time I gave a quick overview of the museum and anatomy’s long history at the RVC. I’ll cover some of the cool skulls we have on display first, then in future posts the dissected specimens, then some of the neat birds and other exotic animals, and I’ll return to bones with a general overview of rockin’ skeletons at the end. Or something like that order. I am a fickle beast and might do otherwise. On with the show then!

So, skulls… I dread talking about skulls. As people on my research team know, I have at least one Cardinal Rule: I don’t work on skulls or heads. Except maybe skulls of Cardinals? Skull anatomy is too complex for my feeble old mind to grasp, and there are too many people working on them that are really great scientists, so I feel I have little to contribute to that area. But I do appreciate them, even if with a glazed look of apprehension and lack of comprehension. :)

It may not surprise you to learn that we have dog skulls in our vet anatomy museum, but you might be impressed by the selection! We have a case full of a diverse set of domestic breeds and non-domestic species (fox, wolf, etc.) of canids, shown above. There is bound to be a good research project in there somewhere- the plasticity of dog skeletons under humans’ artificial selection has done some amazing, and disturbing, stuff, especially to skulls and heads!

But I’m a cat lover and, lest the felids get jealous and enact their final vengeance upon us all, let me move quickly to our felid skull collection:

Yep, not just domestic cats but a nice assortment of lions, tigers and other hypercarnivorous predators! Many from local zoos, especially London Zoo over the past centuries/decades.

Not to be outdone, the ungulates are braying for predationattention, so let’s give them some love:

With some requisite horses thrown in but also quite a few exotic species! And right next to them is another case full of coneheads:

With one prominent member that definitely deserves a closeup, since giraffes are what got this blog started, and this is a lovely old ?male? specimen with honking big ossicones:

Don’t worry old bean, your artiodactyl chum the hippo is keeping you company, pip pip!

Look closely at the right side of the mandible (lower jaw) of that hippo and observe the lumpy bit in the middle of the jaw, which would be inside the cheek in life. That is apparently (I am no skull pathologist by any stretch) an impacted or otherwise severely wonky tooth, and it shows some signs of having been operated on, presumably to keep it from puncturing the cheek or getting infected. Ouch! (For comparison see this more normal, more toothsome skull) It is unilateral (just right side) so I presume this is a sound, if rough, diagnosis. Anyway, stunning skull nonetheless!

Stunning as that may be, archosaurs aren’t going to take this skull-off lying down! Here is one of our crocodylian species; an American Alligator (I think, but I know if I am wrong one of my readers will steer me to an alternative ID, presumably a common caiman, which I know we also have, along with a Tomistoma), with a turtle and python cowering behind it:

Indeed, some Alligator teeth,  with a horse jaw on display, make a lovely halo-like effect when viewed from a certain angle, in a set of shelves devoted to the diversity of tooth forms and functions:

But let’s get real, folks. Fish (OK systematists, non-tetrapod vertebrate) skulls could be said to blow away the diversity of tetrapod skulls. Or at least that’s what the wolffish is trying to tell us, from his vantage point in a display about jaws and ears (more evolutionary context, yay!):

And because I am not one to argue with a wolffish, I will let him have the last word. Hope you enjoyed another quick tour! I’ve only scratched the surface of our selection of skulls; there are plenty more good ones, so come visit sometime!

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