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Stillborn piglet dissection

Stillborn piglet external view
Stillborn piglets make an excellent alternative to rats for dissection

This little piggy is the latest and greatest in whole animal dissection specimens.   They are either stillborn from large litters or smothered by the sow in the stall and come from a farm breeding pigs for meat.  They are usually disposed of as farm waste but we are collecting them and diverting them from the waste stream for dissection.  They are less smelly, cheaper, closer to human anatomy than a rat and aren’t being bred just to be euthanased for science, so each piglet used in the classroom represents a rat that hasn’t had to be put down.

Each piglet typically weighs 600-800g. The piglets are collected and frozen without any chemical preservatives which reduces your chemical exposure in the lab as well as eliminating a source of exposure to the kids in the classroom. It also makes the piglets safe to dispose of in landfill with other normal waste.

piglet dissection internal view
The organs of the stillborn piglet are clean and clearly identifiable

As they generally have not yet fed or only briefly suckled, the intestinal tract is pretty clean and there is little smell to the specimen.  Each organ can easily be identified and removed for further exploration.

piglet dissection internal closeup
Closeup view of the piglet urogenital system

The detail in the circulatory system of the piglets is particularly amazing. You can see in the photo above the veins and arteries of the urogenital system clearly visible.  Once the overlying organs were taken out, the spine was visible and a section could be removed to allow the spinal cord to be seen.

There is a lot more that can be explored with these specimens and we will be spending a lot of time working on them so we can develop some really good resources to allow you to get more bang for your buck.  In the meantime keep an eye out for workshop announcements that will give you the chance to get your hands on one.  We are expecting to be able to bring them to you at ConQEST 2012, if not before.

See you there,

Miss Vivi


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Top Tip: live sperm in the classroom

This is a guest post by Deb Barnett who was the lab tech at the first school to order live boar semen.  This post puts Deb in the running to win our t-shirt competition.

The kids love it!!

It gave us a relevant and interesting resource for the unit. We even had the most disengaged student managing the microscope and getting the best view of the goings on the slide.

The sample maintained viability through the week even though the ice brick had defrosted on arrival and it was warmer than the suggested 15-20 degC in the esky. Arrival time was approx. 12.10pm Monday. I followed the recommended storage conditions throughout.

Just a few notes on how the prac was run here….  A small vial and dropping pipette (1 for each class) was placed in the incubator at 38degC until required. When the class had set up the ‘scopes and warmed their slide between their hands, I aliquoted approx 1mL into a vial and took it straight to class where the teacher kept it warm in their hand whilst walking around the lab putting 1 drop directly on the slide for each group. No “lab accidents”

So, thanks again – a good time was had by all.

Good luck with the business, you’ve certainly hit the spot with it!