ROLF’S RE­MAINS: SCRUTINIZING LIG­A­MENT FIBERS

EQUUS - - Conformation Insights -

As we have just learned, the foren­sic sci­en­tist must take into con­sid­er­a­tion the state of preser­va­tion of body parts un­der ex­am­i­na­tion. While the bones of Ethan Allen are in a rot­ted state, Rolf’s car­cass has a dif­fer­ent his­tory. When he died in 1981, the pol­icy of the Topeka Zoo was to do­nate the re­mains to the Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory at the Univer­sity of Kansas, where they would be stud­ied and pre­served. As a grad­u­ate stu­dent in the mu­seum at the time, I had the priv­i­lege of col­lect­ing Rolf’s car­cass, and I as­sisted the zoo’s vet­eri­nar­ian in per­form­ing the necropsy and tak­ing the tis­sue sam­ples which the state health depart­ment re­quires. Af­ter we fin­ished, I degut­ted the car­cass, quar­tered it, placed the re­mains in sev­eral 50-gal­lon drums, and loaded them onto a truck. Once back at the mu­seum, know­ing that I would like to per­form fur­ther and more de­tailed dis­sec­tion of Rolf’s re­mains, I filled the drums with a mix­ture of grain al­co­hol and formalde­hyde, thus em­balm­ing the car­cass.

Rolf re­mained “pick­led” for quite some time, as I had other projects on hand and thus did not fin­ish with him un­til 1992. At that time I re­turned him to the

mu­seum, when it was de­cided that we would at­tempt to re­cover his skele­ton. This re­quired “de-pick­ling”—not an easy or pleas­ant task—and I am grate­ful to Mam­mals Cu­ra­tor Dr. Robert M. Timm for per­form­ing a near-mir­a­cle in rins­ing the em­balmed car­cass free of chem­i­cals and then re­mov­ing the mus­cles. It is nor­mal in skele­tal prepa­ra­tion to al­low the deeper lig­a­ment lay­ers, which tend to be quite tough, to re­main on the skele­ton. The last step is care­ful dry­ing, which re­sults in the mum­mi­fi­ca­tion of any re­main­ing lig­a­ment fibers, which are thus not ev­i­dence of ab­nor­mal­ity or pathol­ogy.

Rolf's hock joint has nor­mal but mum­mi­fied lig­a­ment fibers.

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