STRUC­TURE OF SKELE­TAL BONE: NOR­MAL VS. ROT­TEN

EQUUS - - Conformation Insights -

The first step in be­com­ing good at CSI-style anal­y­sis is to learn not to over­in­ter­pret ev­i­dence—in short, not to make moun­tains out of mole­hills. The an­a­lyst must re­al­ize the dif­fer­ence be­tween the nor­mal ap­pear­ance of bone (be­low) ver­sus in­juries, patholo­gies or de­vel­op­men­tal anom­alies, and must also be able to dis­tin­guish pre-mortem from post­mortem dam­age. The im­ages at right are four views of Ethan Allen’s left carpal bones (the small bones that form the “knee” joint). The smooth, pink­ish ma­te­rial vis­i­ble be­tween some of the bones is jew­eler’s wax used to hold them to­gether with­out harm­ing them.

Es­pe­cially in the front and rear views, the bones ap­pear rough, with a finely bub­bly tex­ture (yel­low ar­rows). This is not an ab­nor­mal­ity but the nor­mal ap­pear­ance of can­cel­lous bone, vis­i­ble be­cause 11 years spent buried in earth eroded away the outer, lamel­lar cov­er­ing over parts of the shafts of the bones, ex­pos­ing the can­cel­lous bone within. By con­trast, sur­faces of the carpal bones in top and bot­tom views look smooth and shiny. They rep­re­sent ar­tic­u­lar facets that were thick and hard enough to with­stand burial con­di­tions. Thus, the joints com­pris­ing Ethan Allen’s car­pus—like al­most the whole of his skele­ton—show al­most zero pathol­ogy, prov­ing him to have been ex­actly as con­tem­po­rary re­ports made him out to be: one of the sound­est stal­lions ever to be bred in Amer­ica.

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