Monday, April 30, 2012

What's inside an elephant?

What's inside an elephant?:
Sometimes, I get so jealous of British television. Apparently, there's a whole series over there called Inside Nature's Giants. It's basically a zoology dissection show, where scientists break down large, exotic animals in ways that help teach viewers about evolution, biology, and the science of animal locomotion.

John Hutchinson is an American zoologist who works as a professor of evolutionary biomechanics in the UK. He's one of the scientists who works behind the scenes on Inside Nature's Giants. He also blogs at What's in John's Freezer?. It's a great title and it gets right to the point: Hutchinson has a job that is centered around the frozen carcasses of all manner of strange (and usually rather large) creatures. His research is all about the evolution and mechanics of motion. He studies living animals, both through dissection and 3D modeling, and he tries to use that data to better understand how extinct animals—including dinosaurs—might have moved around.

It's fascinating stuff. And the photos are nigh-on mind blowing. Right now, at John Hutchinson's blog, you can see a collection of shots from dissections and CT scans done for Inside Nature's Giants—including the dissection of an elephant.

Because I know that some of you are delicate and it is almost lunchtime, I've opted to not post my favorite photo from that dissection on the main page. But you should check it out below the cut.





This photo is astounding. Partly, because it's biology at a scale that I'd not really thought much about before. I know elephants are huge. But until I looked at this image, it had not occurred to me just how equally huge their intestines would have to be.

Second, is it just me, or do these elephant intestines look, weirdly, like some kind of deconstructed modernist couch?

See the rest of the photos, as well as some CT scans of tigers and crocodiles, at the What's in John's Freezer? blog.

Learn more about John Hutchinson's research. If you scroll down on this page, you'll find links to websites about some of his past projects. Topics include: "Tyrannosaurus was not a fast runner" and "Do elephants have six toes?"


Via Brian Switek






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