Biology scholar bones up on pony anatomy

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

Do a poster or build a skeleton? Most peo­ple would take the eas­ier op­tion, but not Mata­mata’s Pip Sut­ton.

The Waikato Univer­sity stu­dent is a farm girl and thought she would build (or more cor­rectly, ar­tic­u­late) a lamb skeleton.

When she was told young lamb bones wouldn’t be hard enough to drill, she con­tem­plated a sheep.

About the same time, a vet con­tacted her lec­turer As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Carolyn King and said he had a set of pony bones he would like to have put to­gether for his surgery re­cep­tion; could any­one at the univer­sity help? Pip took on this larger chal­lenge. There was no room to ar­tic­u­late the horse in the univer­sity lab, so she took the con­tain­ers of bones to the fam­ily farm and, work­ing from The Moose Man­ual – How to pre­pare and ar­tic­u­late large-hoofed mam­mal skele­tons, started work in the garage.

‘‘I first had to clean the bones with hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide and am­mo­nia and drill the big­ger bones to get the mar­row out,’’ said Pip, who is in her third year of a Bach­e­lor of Sport and Leisure Stud­ies ma­jor­ing in biology and sport.

‘‘You don’t re­alise how heavy some of the big bones are, like the head and pelvis. I used a rod for the spinal cord, and bolts to join the heav­ier bones, and a lot of glue. It’s quite tricky, be­cause a live body doesn’t have bone-on-bone like a clean skeleton does, and you also have to make sure you get left and right joints cor­rect but the hard­est bits were plac­ing the lit­tle bones. I think it helped that I knew a bit about the hu­man skeleton.’’

She had to have the skeleton com­pleted by her 21st birth­day be­cause the garage needed to be cleared out and dec­o­rated for her party. She fin­ished with a week to spare.

On her ac­tual birth­day, out rid­ing with the Waikato Dioce­san cy­cling team, which she coaches, Pip was in­volved in a col­li­sion and broke her arm. The party went ahead as planned. When the skeleton had to be moved to Waikato Univer­sity for mark­ing, they loaded it on to a trailer.

‘‘I sat hold­ing it while we trav­elled at about 30 kilo­me­tres an hour into town,’’ said Pip.

‘‘It took an hour and a half, and still two ribs shook loose and the glue came off one foot.’’

As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor King says while Pip’s as­sign­ment was very time- con­sum­ing, her un­der­stand­ing of ver­te­brate anatomy will be a hun­dred times bet­ter than that of stu­dents who chose to com­plete a poster.

Pip’s back on her bike, still with a cast on her arm, and the skeleton is about to go to Marks+Ewen& As­so­ci­ates for dis­play at their Equine Hos­pi­tal in Mata­mata.

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