Several traditional handbooks and web-based databases exist with descriptions of animal anatomy, providing dissection photographies or hand drawn images in explanatory figures. In recent years sophisticated databases have been developed providing unique 2D and 3D visualisations of the internal and external structure of living and extinct vertebrates. Biological visualisation libraries such as www.digimorph.org hold terabytes of images of various species, with its core focus on high-resolution computed tomographic (CT) cranial imaging. Although impressive, CT imaging is mostly suited to visualise bone anatomy, and there is a considerable lack of non-interpreted soft-tissue visualisation in figures of anatomical literature and databases. This study aims to present the endless possibilities of high resolution visualisation of both soft and hard structures in animals using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and CT. Various species (tarantula, horseshoe crab, carp, haddock, lungfish, axolotl) were subjected to multi-slice MRI and CT protocols to produce 2D images of body slices, followed by volume rendering producing 3D digital models of animal anatomy with applications for visualising specific organs of interest. A number of animals (american alligator, ball python, swamp eel, red eared slider, monitor lizard, bearded dragon) were additionally perfused with MRI and CT contrast agents enabling a 3D visualisation of vascular arrangements. We were in hours able to produce high resolution 3D digital models of animal soft and hard tissue anatomy in quality similar or superior to time consuming dissection, and we propose MRI and CT as valuable tools in future studies of animal anatomy in research and education.
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2010 Society for Experimental Biology Annual Meeting, 2010