Friday, 1 October 2010

Gross Matters and much to learn!

Yet again it is the end of another month...time is flying by in my first few weeks in Philadelphia. All I seem to be doing is learning Gross Anatomy (again) with the Vet Students at Penn Vet School...this I am doing to a level of detail that I never thought possible! The muscles of the neck, forelimb, torso, pelvis and hindlimb were mostly recognizable to me, but I swear that mammals manage to fit a few more in than my friends the archosaurs whom I am more familiar with. Each dissection class has delved deeper and deeper into our rather large dog. My dissection colleagues, Art(Arthur), Regina, Rachel and Brandon are focused on the task of learning every flap, foramen, vein, artery, nerve, etc., with great enthusiasm. Given all, bar Brandon, will be practicing as vets at some point...I understand their enthusiasm for knowledge. However, Brandon and I are firmly from the land of paleontology, where the bodies we usually delve into are crunchy, but nonetheless, this first-year PhD student of Peter Dodson is head-first with the rest of the team into the much so, his eyes water on a daily basis (contact lenses and formaldehyde do not mix well)!

I'm contemplating whether or not I should add more images of our dissection to this blog? Any comments on a yay or nay on whether additional images of such a display of canine corpses would be welcome..please let me know. The above image shows the nerves running from the spinal cord of the neck down to the forearm (the brachial plexus). It is quite an education seeing your brachial plexus neatly dissected so you can follow the major trunk of nerves from the next to the arm and then see them disappear (innervate) the muscles. Quite splendid that such an elegant system has evolved in us vertebrates. As we dive into the cardiovascular system, things get even more colorful, courtesy of our double-injected dog, that has satisfyingly siliconed red arteries and blue veins. One might think the vascular network would be easy to follow with the color-coding, but as the major arteries and veins bifurcate, trifurcate and multiply at every turn and organ, I think again on this beautiful network that natural selection has finely honed to the ultimate bowl of spaghetti for us to make sense of.

Today as we worked back from the vast liver in our dog, that is as hard as a chunk of parmesan, we then delved into the stomach and intestinal tract. One can get dizzy tracking arteries and veins as they dive in and out of this visceral soup of organs. If I take one thing from these 'refresher' classes for myself, it is that I have a huge respect for those who teach and those who want to learn the ins and outs of vertebrate Gross Anatomy.


  1. Hey Phil
    Always up for more pics of dissection!
    Hope you are well.
    Louise S.

  2. Excellent dissection of the plexus. Great job guys!