Biology scholar bones up on pony anatomy
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.