It is high time I show you my co-dissector Sebastian Marpmann! Sebastian holds a Masters in Geology, and (German Science Foundation willing) will pursue a doctorate at the Museum für Naturkunde and Humboldt-University in Berlin studying rhinoceros locomotion – with me, and obviously with a competent researcher as well: none other than John Hutchinson. Here is Sebastian, interrupted in the process of skinning the lower front leg of our giraffe.
Yesterday was a quite frustrating day. Our “easy” task was getting the remaining muscles off the lower front limb, weighing and measuring them, and cutting the bones apart so they can be cleaned. Shouldn’t be too taxing, right?
Wrong! We ended up totally confused, begging Penny Hudson to help us AGAIN! Needless to say, whereas some researchers believe themselves to be VIPs, Penny is a VNP (very nice person), and immediately came to our help.
Our problems stemmed from two simple facts: the giraffe wrist had been opened at the ventral (inner) side by the vets at the zoo it came from (we do not know why, maybe looking for a pathology involved in the animals death), and all tendons running through there had been cut. Not only that: the deep cut had dried out, merging the clotted blood and the tendons and connective tissue into one hard blob on each side. You can see the damage in this shot of the skinned lower limb:
The problem now was that the easy way of distinguishing between the various extensors or flexors of the wrist and the toes (which all originate from very small areas on the end of the humerus and the top of the radius and ulna) is be seeing where they insert, then following the tendons up – if you can. For quite a bunch of them, we could not.
The other thing messing with us was that the giraffe muscles simply did not add up to either what we found in the literature for horses or giraffes, nor with the list of muscles we had been given from a previous giraffe dissection by Penny. On one side, we had too few muscles, on the other, too many – and then there was a muscle joining the wrong tendon…. really confusing. On the other hand, I must admit that we were a tiny bit glad when Penny was also confused by this mess.
In the end, the solution turned out to be fairly simple: we had missed a division between two muscles, we (and Penny) had initially taken an internal, flat tendon to be a sign of two muscles being present where there really was just one, and this specific giraffe happened to have a second, small muscle belly with a tendon instead of a simple secondary tendon. Phew!
Penny, thank you very much indeed! You were utterly awesome!
In the end, we managed to at least cut the humerus, radius and ulna off, so that the task remaining for today is cutting the tendons out of the hand, measuring everything, and bagging those tendons and sesamoids (little extra bones in the toes) John wants preserved. Then, we can measure the muscles and good riddance with this forelimb!
Here’s Sebastian with the finally-separated-and-to-be-stowed-away humerus:
Michael Pittman in the background – note that the black thing is not some weird hairdo of his, but a cover over the window in the door. We had to move from the big postmortem dissection room to the Structure and Motion Lab’s muscle room, and someone was running animal experiments on the other side of the door. Shy animals, so the window had to be blocked.