AP Biology Students Dissect Fetal Pigs

By Jessica Yip ’15 and Gianni-Niamani Theobbles ‘15


It’s that time of year again for hearts, livers, small intestines and many other organs to make their showing; AP biology students dissect fetal pigs to wrap up the year.

“The purpose of this fetal pig dissection was to learn more about anatomy and to gain a deeper understanding of the things we learned over the year,” said Ms. Jessica Ross, AP Biology teacher.

Fetal pigs were used during the dissection since their anatomy is closely related to humans. The dissections took place on May 19 through May 21. The students worked in pairs and looked at everything in the pigs.

According to Ms. Ross, on the first day of the dissection most students are “squeamish” and don’t want to touch the fetal pigs, but by the last day they are really interested and get into the dissection.

“I thought the dissection was disgusting,” said Onur

Ayaz ’14. “On the first day I just looked at it, and then all I did on the second day was poke around the pig with the scalpel. One of the most interesting things was the small intestine when it was stretched out because it was almost the width of the classroom. Cutting the skin off the muscle and looking at it was also interesting.”

Each day after the students removed the organs and dissected them, the pigs were put back into preservative called formaldehyde and then placed in the refrigerator.

“I literally love dissecting,” said Anfisa Chernykh 14’. “My favorite part of the dissection was looking at the different organs and actually seeing it up close in person.”

32 fetal pigs were used in total among Ms. Ross’s two AP biology classes.

“It was fun and interesting to see the organs inside the pigs since they’re very similar to ours,” said Yasmine Brown-Williams 14’. “It was interesting to take all the organs out and cut them up and see the organs in person instead of two – dimensional diagrams. Seeing everyone’s reaction was also very interesting. I was pretty comfortable with the dissection since I have previous lab experience and this dissection was a good review of animal systems.”

The fetal pigs came from a biology supply house and were relatively cheap. The mother pigs were killed for meat while they were pregnant and instead of disposing of the fetal pigs, the pork industry sold them to the biology supply house. The pigs were not raised for the dissection.

The dissection was not mandatory for the AP exam; however, the students had to take a test in class on what they saw and learned during the dissection.

“It smelt really gross but eventually I stopped breathing through my nose and started to cut up the pig,” said Scarlett Neuberger ’15. “The most fun part was cutting out the brain. It was hard to take the brain out since the tools we used were really dull. You had to chip away the skull and then scoop out the brain. It was also hard to tell what organs we were looking at because at the organs were squished together. You really can’t identify anything because it’s not like a diagram where you see it on a piece of paper. After the experiment was done, I was relieved because the room started to smell really bad since the organs started to decay overtime.

Ms. Ross said that the dissection enhances what the students learn in AP over the year and, generally, the students like it.

“It was a different story thinking about the dissection

than actually doing it,” said Donald Ceus ’15. “My favorite organ was the heart. The liver was the most interesting organ because it was bigger than I thought it would be and it was larger than the rest of the organs. I was glad to be done with the experiment.”

After the experiment ended, the fetal pigs were disposed of in the garbage.

“I think the dissection is a really good experience and

the kids find it really interesting and enjoyable,” said Ms. Ross.

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