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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.

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

Larry Gordon the Leopard Eel

Fun fact about eels: they have a second set of ‘jaws’ in their throat to help pull prey down into their throat (also known as pharyngeal jaws). Larry Gordon the leopard eel is featured below on a trip to a local veterinary hospital for a CT scan.

Scale reconstruction photo by Kelsey Johnson, DVM, DACVR, Veterinarian and Radiologist at Summit Veterinary Hospital.