Taking apart the baby skunk.
In the interests of length, this entry is mostly about internal organs.
All images are linked to high res versions, click to view.
NOTE: This post contains graphic images of an animal being skinned and photos of internal organs. It is NSFW and R-18G. Click “Read more” if you wish to see it.
All prep work begins with skinning. In trauma, the elasticity of the skin is deceptive, often masking the true extent of injuries.
There’s not a single scratch on this little guy. Beneath the skin, a large tear in the muscles of his flank has allowed the intestine to slip into the space just beneath the skin.
He’s been internally disemboweled.
The location of the tear on his left side, indicates that he was hit from the opposite side.
It’s a classic vehicle hit injury. I see it all the time. In fact, here are two other specimens with nearly identical injures. A pregnant doe and a pregnant cat.
Here’s a shot of the hind quarters. The anal glands of the skunk are now exposed. In this photo of the thigh area, I’ve marked out the location of the underlying bones. The bright blue areas denote “bony landmarks”, areas in which bones come to the surface of the form. These are useful for drawing.
According to a veterinary manual I once read, the anal glands of a skunk are the size of grapes. This baby skunk is so young that his testicles are not yet descended, yet his anal glands are nearly adult size. Priorities…
Here he is fully skinned. His pelvis is broken, torn apart along the pubic symphysis, or the area in which the two halves of the pelvis join. The abdominal wall is torn there as well.
It’s another typical vehicle hit injury.
The smooth watery surface of the liver pushes into view through the abdominal incision I’ve made.
…and it’s a mess too. Beneath, the smooth surface of the lobe, the liver is hopelessly lacerated, nestled in a sprawling ruin of blood clots.
Liver laceration is one of the most common injuries in blunt force trauma to the torso. The soft nearly gelatinous organ is filled with small fragile blood vessels. It fragments easily, even if the muscular body wall remains undamaged.
Within the folds of the liver, the gallbladder has begun to leak bile, staining the liver a bright saffron yellow. The vividness of the color is amazing.
I’ve excised the liver. I’m often awestruck by the beauty of these structures that remain hidden in life. The fluidity of form and subtle transitions of color are flawless.
It’s so beautiful. /sigh
I love this photo. I could probably crop it, mat it nicely, and enter it in the local photo club competition or something.
Returning to anatomy….this photo clearly shows the structures associated with the gallbladder.
The liver produces bile, which travels through the hepatic and cystic bile ducts to be stored in the gall bladder. During digestion, bile stored within the gall bladder travels back down the cystic bile duct into the common bile duct and into the small intestine, to assist in the breakdown of fats.
In humans, the removal of the gallbladder is a common surgical procedure. In that case, the liver simply switches to producing bile on demand, rather than storing the excess.
Here’s the stomach, it’s very full. Opening the stomach and examining the contents is the highlight of every dissection. It offers a glimpse into the animal’s life, dietary choices made unaware of impending demise.
The folded back stomach wall reveals the gastric ruggae, folds in the fleshy wall of the stomach that help increase it’s surface area.
There’s a furry object inside…. It’s partially digested…
Do you see the claws?! I’ve marked them out with blue arrows. The yellow arrows denote the bones of the wrist…. It’s a paw.
It’s the front paw of a rabbit…. this is my lucky day. (It actually looks like the left one.)
The diaphram sits at the end of the abdominal cavity. Behind this fleshy muscular wall lies the heart and lungs. The muscle fibers radiate outward from the center, attaching at the border of the ribcage.
Slightly to the left, there’s a hole in the diaphragm (red arrow). This is called the esophageal hiatus. The esophagus threads through this hole to enter the stomach.
Here’s a shot of the structures of the lower abdomen.
Notice the ureter inserting into the bladder, and the sperm duct (vas defrens) inserting into the prostate. This bottom photo includes both the kidney and the tesicle.
Between my fingers is the kidney.
At the side of the kidney is a opening called the “hilum”. Through this hole, the renal artery (blood to the kidney), renal vein (blood coming out of kidney) and the ureter (urine exiting the kidney) enter the organ. That’s the three strands in the photo.
Inside the kidney, bundles of filter-like structures form units called “renal pyramids.” The filtered out urine collects in a hollow called the “renal pelvis” and flows out the ureter into the bladder.
These are in infamous anal glands.
Most mammals have anal glands, they produce oily secretions used to identify the individual. In skunks, these are huge and highly developed.
These glands are very muscular, there’s two major muscles that cover the surface, set perpendicular to each others. I don’t know what the names are, nor can I find any info on them.
In these photos, I’ve removed the anus along with the glands…it’s impossible to remove the glands without causing damage to associated structures. People talk about descenting skunks/ferrets, declawing cats as casually as if animals are assemblages of readily detachable parts…..trivializing the true invasiveness of these procedures.
Skunk spray is bright yellow.
It’s a thin, almost watery oil that readily permeates most plastics and latex gloves. It’s surprisingly volatile, a small amount will rapidly vaporize into an enormous area.
I was able to express around 2 -3ml or so of the fluid from the glands.