Swine Dissection Teaches Anatomy

By Victor Lee ’16

“Oh my god! I can hear the jaw crack,” said Sharon Li ‘16, during the annual AP Biology fetal pig dissection in the last week of May. Fetal pigs are pigs that are unborn; the pigs dissected during the laboratory activity naturally died prior to birth. “I was really excited to dissect a fetal pig because it was my first time dissecting anything that large,” said Emily Hui ‘16. Although a large portion of the class was extremely excited to dissect the fetal pigs, many were deterred at the beginning due to the stench. The fetal pigs were bathed in chemical preservatives, and the odor was overpowering. It is well known that during dissection week, the annex will be noxious due to the pigs. “Finding the epiglottis was extremely nasty because I had to yank open the mouth,” Li explained. “I could hear the jaw The students, working in pairs, followed a laboratory guide during the dissection of the pigs. Given a dissection kit, one of the earliest steps were to find the epiglottis, a tiny flap of muscle closing the windpipe during swallowing. “It was extremely interesting to see the anatomy of the pig because it is very similar to us,” Kimberly Ho ‘16 said. “It’s like seeing a mini-me, just in pig form.” One of the main reasons that the dissection was completed on the pig is because a pig’s anatomy is very similar to a human. Although a fetal pig’s organs are much smaller than humans, the location and the function of the organs are identical to humans. “One of the grossest scene of the dissection is when all the juices inside the pig came out,” said Wen Li Wang ‘15. “The smell made me want to throw up.” The first day of the dissection was mostly preoccupied with the abdominal cavity. When the abdominal cavity was opened, gushes of cloudy preservatives squirted out. The diaphragm, liver, gallbladder, stomach, intestines, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, and umbilical cord were explored. Following the opening of the abdominal cavity, the reproductive system of the fetal pig was explored. The fetal pig’s ovary and uterus, or testical and penis were located within the pelvic cavity. Interestingly, a male fetal pig’s penis does not protrude outside its body; instead, the penis is embedded in tissues within the lower abdomen until later development. One of the last guided activities was the opening of the thoracic cavity to explore the heart, lungs, and major arteries and veins. The arteries and veins were injected with chemicals prior to the dissection, so the arteries were stained red and veins blue. “Some of us decided to see the brain,” Hui added. “So they had to crack the skull and slowly chip away the parts without puncturing the brain.” During the final day of dissection, some students wanted to remove the brain from the pig; however, unlike removing the other organs from the body, the brain is protected by the solid skull. The students had to remove the skin of the pig on the head, then crack the skull. Afterwards, the broken skull had to be slowly removed to protect the fragile brain. Although many groups in the class attempted the task, only a few were successful. “I feel like this isn’t the end,” Wang remarked. “I know I will continue to take biology in college, and I will take all my knowledge and experiences from this class with me in into my later years.” After a full year of scarring lectures, fun laboratory activities, and the strenuous AP exam, the AP Biology students have

Students learn about anatomy through dissection and observation.
Students learn about anatomy through dissection and observation.

overcame all their major hurdles.

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