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“Inside Look” at Animals’ Skeletons
“Inside Look” at Animals’ Skeletons

Black cats, pumpkins, ghosts… skulls and skeletons. They’re all symbols of the Halloween season. We asked Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s head veterinarian, Dr. Karen Wolf, to give us an “inside” look at a few of the Zoo’s animals and their not-so-spooky skeletons. Dr. Wolf regularly takes radiographs or X-rays of the animals to check on their health and care for them.

Bella the African Straw-colored Fruit Bat

There are over 1,400 species of bats in the world, and the African straw-colored fruit bat is one of them! In this radiograph, you’ll notice something that looks like a necklace around Bella’s neck. It’s a loose-fitting collar that keepers have placed on her to help distinguish her from her sister Buffy, who also lives at the Zoo.

“Something else I like to point out to people is Bella’s fingers,” said Dr. Wolf. “They are longer than her arm!”

radiograph of bat
In this X-ray, you can see the bat’s fingers are longer than her arm!

Chee Wit the Clouded Leopard

Chee Wit is the largest of the clouded leopards at the Zoo. In this X-ray of his skull, you can see just how large the canine teeth are in this species. In fact, clouded leopards have the longest canine teeth relative to their body size of any feline species!

“Their teeth are pretty impressive!” says Dr. Wolf.

radiograph of clouded leopard
In this X-ray, you can see just how large a clouded leopard’s canine teeth are.

Homer the Porcupinefish

In this X-ray, you can see the spine-covered body of Homer the porcupinefish.

“When threatened, porcupinefish can fill their stomachs with air and inflate their bodies, turning themselves into a balloon protected on all sides by strong, sharp spines,” said Dr. Wolf.

Another fun fact: instead of teeth, porcupinefish have a tooth plate in the upper and lower jaw that is strong enough to crush mollusk shells.

radiograph of porcupinefish
In this X-ray, you can see the spine-covered body of a porcupinefish.

Pebbles the Burrowing Owl

Despite being very small (weighing less than 10 ounces!), burrowing owls are fierce predators. In this radiograph, you can see the bones of a prey item in Pebbles’ stomach. You can also see his characteristically large eyes that take up the majority of his skull!

radiograph of burrowing owl
You can see the bones of a prey item in Pebbles’ stomach

Scarlet the Rainbow Boa

“In this picture, you can see all of the delicate vertebrae and rib characteristics of snakes,” said Dr. Wolf.

You can also see the boa’s many sharp teeth angled backward, helping the snake keep its prey headed in the direction of its stomach.

radiograph of rainbow boa
Snakes have many delicate vertibrae as seen in this X-ray