Posts Tagged ‘RVC’

I stumbled across some old pics, which I thought I’d lost, from the filming/preparations of 4 episodes of Inside Nature’s Giants (Jan-Feb 2009) at the RVC. They form a nice accompaniment to my previous post reflecting on my experience with the show, and the timing is great because I’m about to head to Raleigh, NC to talk about this research at the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology conference.

Stomach-Churning Rating: 4 at first (just a dead animal; and a rather clean one at that), then about halfway through the dissections start and it edges up to a 7 or so.

These pictures are sadly some of the few I have of the whole, intact body of a gorgeous adult Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) that the Windfall Films team managed to get to the RVC from La Ferme Aux Crocodiles in Pierrelatte, France. (I have scores of pics of the dissected limbs, shown further below) As the title indicates, it was a nice big croc. And as you’d expect, CT scanning and then dissecting it was no tiny feat, and makes a fun story. Story time, then, after an introductory pic!

Dr Samuel Martin, vet from La Ferme Aux Crocodiles, brought the crocodile (and some smaller specimens) over to our Hawkshead campus in late January 2009, and we quickly moved to run the specimen through our CT scanner to preserve some details of its anatomy (example shown at the end of this post) and for potential usage in the show. As the photos below illustrate, this was hard work for several people.

And then, as we were finishing the last CT scans of the specimen, our ageing medical scanner stopped working. And could not be resuscitated. R.I.P., Picker PQ5000 (buy one or two here!). The crocodile, “WCROC” as my team came to designate it, had claimed its final victim. It took about a year for us to get a new one, and that year sucked. It made me appreciate how lucky we are to have a CT scanner just across the parking lot from my office!

Anyway, the day of filming I was hoping to make it in to watch my colleague and friend Dr Greg Erickson help lead the dissection team, but a wicked blizzard blew up, and as I was starting the 31 mile drive south from my home to the RVC I realized, from the queue of cars that seemed to be 31 miles long (and train lines shut down), that this was going to be a snow day. So I turned around and came home. Another victory for WCROC!

The filming proceeded despite heavy snow delaying many of the key players’ arrivals. I got filmed a day or two later for a little section of the show on the limbs and locomotion of crocodiles but sadly this got cut from the main ING show (but did air in the National Geographic version “Raw Anatomy“, in the USA at least).

The limbs had been left largely intact, although some of the dissectors who didn’t know croc anatomy very well had slashed through parts of the pelvis and, in eagerness to reach key parts to demonstrate in the show, some major muscles got shredded. This is no big surprise; crocodiles have a lot of bones all over the place: in their skin (scutes; bony armour), in their bellies (the belly ribs called gastralia), and almost everywhere else, so some brute force is required to get to the gooey bits. Apparently there had been 6 or so people dissecting at once and things got a little carried away. The curse of WCROC continues?

Oh well; that’s just how documentaries go sometimes, especially with a pioneering show like this and the intensely compressed timescales of filming (time is ££!). There can be pulses of chaos. And the show turned out GREAT! (alternative link if latter does not work outside UK)

Let’s have more photos tell the story of the scanning, which also shows off this beautiful animal’s external anatomy:

Anyway, things turned out fine overall for our research. A week or so later (maybe longer; I forget if the specimen was frozen and thawed out for us) we came in to start dissections. We were really excited to measure the limb muscles of such a big crocodile, for comparison to a growth series (babies to adults) of alligators that my former PhD student (now postdoc; Dr.) Vivian Allen had dissected back in 2008. Here he is with a masked co-dissector, displaying their joy for the task at hand:

And let’s not leave out the exhuberance of visiting research fellow Dr. Shin-Ichi Fujiwara! He wanted to inspect the forelimbs for his ongoing studies of limb posture, joint cartilages and locomotor mechanics.

The remaining images show progressive stages of dissection of WCROC, starting from the pectoral (fore-) limbs with a view of the belly (and the giant jaw-closing muscles visible on the left side of image):

Isolated right forelimb, with coracoid (part of shoulder girdle) sticking through:

Assorted forelimb/upper arm (brachial) muscles:

And the triceps (elbow-straightening) muscles; not that big in such a big animal:

…and on to the pelvic limbs and the huge tail:

With a closer look at the HUGE thigh muscle, the famed M. caudofemoralis longus:

And then an isolated right hindlimb:

Thigh muscles, with which I have a peculiar fascination that stems from my PhD research:

And last, the great, paddle-like hind foot!

What a great experience that was! We have fond memories of WCROC, a great documentary from Windfall Films, some nice data– and a lovely skeleton. Perhaps the curse of WCROC is not so bad. Nothing can go wrong now!

Soon Mieke Roth, scientific illustrator from the Netherlands, is coming here to do a similar dissection on more Nile crocodiles at the RVC. As with the octopus she wrote about in September, she will make a 3D model, but with much more detail and with an emphasis on accuracy and accessibility. The end products will be really cool; think of the visible body, 3d models that can be used in teaching, animations, a book and lots more but also a “how did she do that?” blog. To finance this project (that probably will take a year or more) she will use crowd funding. In several weeks there will be more info on how to participate in her fantastic endeavour. For now, see her video with the initial pitch for “Nile Crocodile 2.0“!

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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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And so we return to the series of posts on non-frozen, but still anatomically awesome, specimens from the RVC’s Anatomy Museum. Refer to posts on dissections, skulls and the introduction if you missed the last three.

Today is for the birds. Feel free to cry fowl if you feel this post is a poultry sum of images. Oh I could go on with lame puns, but I am merciful…

We’ll start with what is presumably not a Norwegian Blue; presumably neither resting and certainly bereft of beautiful plumage, but nonetheless a remarkable bird and great fodder for a wide range of silly jokes:

Which provides us with a segue into our series of nicely mounted skeletons of domestic poultry, first with the super-sized American variety termed Meleagris:

And then with the less titanic but still impressive, fast-growing, large-breasted Gallus:

Which is a reminder of the non-defunct poultry that the RVC maintains, including a sporadic series of chickens that our lab hosts for our research (blog to come soon!), first shown in the fluffy 2 week old stage:

And what a difference 2 weeks makes!

But back to the museum. Perhaps in sympathy for the plight of broiler chickens, a local raptor hangs, wings akimbo, to display various external features:

Plodding along, and missing the cranial end of the skeleton in this photo (in John’s typical photography/research style; d’oh!) is a nice big Maribou stork:

Keeping the birds company is a fellow archosaur, which reminds me of WIJF’s previous post on pelvic differences in archosaurs; here an Alligator:

Nearby there is an ostrich pelvis for a similar comparison as in the latter post. And not far from that is a nice view of an ostrich foot, along with other birds’ feet in a display on perching/pedal adaptations:

For a really stunning image of an ostrich foot, check out this plastinated specimen (more pics like it here). We really like ostriches, so we also have an ostrich head and neck:

These ratite displays remind me of our emu flock that we are maintaining (not at the museum!), which is 13 strong at the moment and very cute at ~8 weeks of age (intriguingly, a similar ~3kg body mass to a 6-week old broiler chicken! But much leggier.):

If you happen to visit the Anatomy Museum to peruse plastinated poultry or oggle other oddities, save time for a stroll to the nearby Grant Museum of Zoology; one of London’s greatest natural history treasures (edit- see recent TetZoo blog post on this) — and one that is drenched in history. Great flightless bird exhibits, too, such as this kiwi:

Or a stunning assortment of dodo bones:

Or, coming full circle, an emu (or so I think… naughty John’s headless-photo bias at play again!).

And the emu will escort you to the exit. Thanks for visiting! We’re nearing the end of this series, so I hope you have enjoyed it.

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You behaved very well with the Mystery CT Slices #3; I was not lynched; so I can reward you for your exquisite mercy with another peering into the RVC’s Anatomy Museum. Yay! As promised, I will now present our fabulous collection of pre-dissected, preserved specimens.

Stomach-Churning Rating: 5/10; for dog lovers perhaps 7/10. I suppose I should enact this SCR system for all blog posts now?

First, a view down the main hall of dissected specimens (note nice blue carpet and bright green door? RVC likes colour sometimes.):

Next, some of those specimens, pertaining in particular to cranial appendages of the canine variety, in two adjacent shelving units (click to embiggen— all images in these posts tend to have substantially larger images you can view):


Zooming in on one such canine specimen, emphasizing the jaws and cranial nerves as well as larynx:

Next it would be apropos to reveal the inner anatomy of the jaw muscles (pterygoids!!! trigeminal nerve!) and neck/pharynx/CNS tissues:

And moving on to the upper part of dog necks and their associated muscles, nerves and other tissues that help support the head/larynx:

I would be remiss at this point if I did not show the main nervous system of a dog that runs from the head down to the rump:

Followed by the upper forelimb and lower hind limb dissections of humans’ best friend:

And now any dog lovers can stop panting and take a breather. Go for walkies?

I have horse feet to show instead:

Then I present you with a gorgeous corrosion cast from a mammal whose identity I am not certain of right now (will add later– sheep??) (EDIT: No, pig; a lung “triple cast”):

…and now a specimen that at first glance I thought was some sort of parasite, but the label tells the story (ID pending– cow/horse?from a pig):

Animal Inside Out/Bodyworlds doesn’t hold the monopoly on plastination; we do it too (I must remember to learn how to do this soon!):

Enough musculoskeletal system; I know you all come here for the guts, right? Goat stomach compartments (the reticulum region), as an exemplar of the famed (but inaccurately described) “four-stomach” digestive system of ruminant mammals- not 4 stomachs, but 4 compartments that divide the labour of digestion (including bacterial fermentation):

Bah, enough synapsids! Deep inside, every anatomist might secretly be coveting the dinosaurian digestive tract, here represented by a goose’s guts:

Since we’re really delving into the gooey bits now, how about the reproductive system of a hen, with a perspective across its ontogeny?

Dinosaurs, mammals; get over it! You and me, baby, we ain’t nothing but gnathostomes:

Like fish heads? Try shark brains (nice myosepta also evident here):

Whatever taxon floats your boat, the RVC’s Anatomy Museum has something for you, inside and out! Anyone still with me at this point can probably agree- we all heart anatomy:

Stay tuned for more Mystery CT Slices, museum tours (including a different museum, soon), and even more!

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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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Welcome to the first of a series of image galleries with highlights from the RVC‘s Anatomy Museum! Our veterinary school dates back to the 1789 epic dissection of the unbeaten racehorse Eclipse by surgeon Mr Charles Vial de Saint Bels, which led to the college’s founding in 1791 (incidentally, the RVC retains Eclipse’s skeleton to this day, and 80% of living racehorses come from Eclipse’s lineage!).

What, you didn’t know we have an anatomy museum? Well this is another of London’s many hidden museum treasures. It is based at our Camden campus, just a 10min jaunt from King’s Cross or St Pancras stations (or Mornington Crescent tube), in the colourful Camden Town neighborhood. It doesn’t have its own website, yet, and my posts are not intended to play that role, but I want to informally and unofficially celebrate its glory because I think we have a great museum full of wonderful features and people deserve to see them.

For example, when I first interviewed for (what became) my job at the RVC in 2003, one of the first sights at the Camden campus was the original, classic ~Victorian style (dark and gloomy, stained wooden cabinets, room chock full of skeletons) anatomy museum which presented the entrant with a lovely view of this:

Which sadly is my only photo of the skeleton of an Asian elephant that shows it in its original position, crowded next to the skeletons of a white rhino, common hippo, horse and other animals. If you know me and my penchant for giant critters, that was like being shown the Promised Land! Since then, modernity has required us to clear out the dusty Victorian room and rehouse the specimens in more airy, spacious surroundings. Which has worked out pretty well in our case, I think. Here is the elephant now, in the midst of our cafe next to our Anatomy Museum (sadly, the rhino and hippo are mostly now tucked away in storage, and no, there is no rhino horn here for people to steal. Sheesh!):

Much easier to walk around, drink coffee with, etc., and it has gained a second skull (with the skull of a baby also on display nearby). So you might immediately be able to see why I like our museum– any museum with a mounted elephant skeleton rocks, in my opinion. But also, I’m gradually cleaning up my freezer specimens, building a little museum of “my” own that will eventually become an official part of the RVC museum’s collection, so there is a connection to this blog too.

Anyway, here is what a visitor gets as a first impression upon entering our museum:

Namely, a horse who is less famous than Eclipse but still no slouch in his day, Foxhunter the show jumping horse, who won Britain its only gold medal at the Olympics 70 years ago (nice timing)! Then, looking around the museum, you will see:

A cow skeleton to your left, which is no shock at a vet school, but then look more closely, to the right:

A nice tiger skeleton is mounted there, with a pig skeleton atop it, and a hippo skull hanging out nearby (closer view of that in a later post). Through the green doors to the right is our lovely cafe, with the elephant and a few more specimens including a splendid mount of a sitting polar bear (to be shown later). And then, meandering around back to the left through the museum hall you will find:

A nice replica chimp skeleton next to a cast of “Lucy”, the famed Australopithecus early hominin! So there’s some decent evolutionary context in the exhibit, too; not just your standard domestic critters with little broader conceptual unification. But I think some of the museum’s greatest treasures  are the preserved specimens of lovingly dissected animal anatomy demonstrations, such as toward the back of the room:

These were done over past decades, many winning awards for the skill displayed in making them, and it is sad that this skill is becoming more and more rare, with shifts toward less hands-on, more computerized education and training. At least BodyWorlds and Animal Inside Out bucks this trend! It’s fortunate we have museums to show off the skill of preparators and dissectors so the beauty of such specimens can continue to be appreciated. I’ll show some closeups later.

There are plenty of surprises in the RVC’s Anatomy Museum, so if you get a chance and expect to be near our Camden Campus, come take a look sometime. Casual, unheralded visitors are not normally welcome, as the museum is more of an in-house educational resource than a public one. But I am told that scientists could easily get entry to study specimens on prior request, and with plenty of advance notice other members of the general public probably could, too. Mr Andrew Crook (recently awarded an MBE for his efforts using our museum and other facilities to educate local students) is the main contact person but please don’t swamp him with requests. It would be best to contact me first for advice and contact details.

So there’s a little introduction to our Anatomy Museum, and coming posts will show you more of the cool specimens within– stay tuned!

I’ll have our friend the ostrich skull show you the way out–

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