Anatomy Fun Facts

I thought I’d make things more fun and informative today. I’ve got an ever-growing collection of interesting facts about animals. I try to dig out this sort of trivia for the students we have at the practice observing or doing internships. It’s a fun way to stump them and to lighten things up between difficult cases.

Today’s trivia is based on anatomy. The variety of shapes and forms out there in the animal kingdom is incredibly huge. Even among large groups like ‘felines’ or ‘canines,’ we can find differences. We’ve changed the physical characteristics of wolves to give us all of the breeds we see today, for example.

We should start with some terms for orientation. We have to describe parts of a patient’s anatomy very carefully. Specific terminology is used to indicate which area of the body is abnormal. The diagram below does a fairly good job of illustrating these terms.

Anatomical directions copy

The true names of joints are frequently replaced by more common terms. The dog below has the translation for the joints in the limbs. As another side note, horse enthusiasts sometimes call the wrist the “front knee.” Horses also have a very special foot (hoof), in which there are even more special terms.

0067x copy

Dogs have three variations in skull shape. A very long muzzle, such as you’d see on a Greyhound or Collie, is called dolichocephalic. A very short muzzle is called brachycephalic. Between those is the mesocephalic head, found in breeds such as Dalmatians and Labs.
Whippet copy

Shihtzu copy

Dalmatian

On to the trivia tidbits!

Cows don’t have upper incisors. They have a tough wad of tissue called the dental pad.
Bovine Dental pad 001 copy

Animals are organized into a special naming pattern. Cats are grouped as follows:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felis or Panthera
Species: varies (leo, tigris, catus, concolor, pardus, onca, etc.)

Cats in the Felis genus are usually smaller cats and have slitted pupils. The “big cats” are in the Panthera genus and tend to have round pupils. There’s one exception to that: cougars. Cougars are big cats with round pupils, but they belong to the Felis genus. Lynx have their own genus, Lynx, which includes bobcats. Cheetah also have their own genus and species: Acinonyx jubatus.

Oceloteye copy

Cats have a tiny little sensory organ on the roof of the mouth called the vomeronasal organ. It’s also known as Jacobson’s Organ. This interesting little bit of anatomy is why cats will sometimes open their mouth a little when they’re sniffing. The organ detects scents. It’s also responsible for this face:
Flehmentiger copy
This is called a flehmen expression/response.

Cows don’t have really have 4 stomachs. There is a series of big chambers through which food goes before reaching the small intestine. The first big part is called the rumen. The rumen is a huge tank in the abdomen in which grass is digested and fermented. The next chamber is the reticulum, followed by the omasum, and finally, the abomasum.
Cow trunk rumen copy

My last little tidbit is about eyes. I’m sure you’ve seen an animal’s eyes reflect a green, yellow, or blue glow. This happens because there’s a special reflective layer on the inside rear part of the eye. That layer is called the tapetum lucidum. The tapetum’s job is to reflect light back through the retina. However, dogs and cats with blue eyes don’t have a tapetum. Blue eyes reflect red because the light passes through blood vessels on the inner rear part of the eye. People also lack a tapetum, which is why we get red-eye from a camera flash.
IMG 1679 copy

That should get you started on esoteric animal-related knowledge. Is there anything you’ve always wanted to know? I’ll try to find out the answer for you! As always, thanks for reading!

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Filed under anatomy, trivia, wildlife

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