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See the unique skeletal features of moray eels in exquisite detail

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Karly Cohen

Photographer
Karly Cohen

MORAY eels are recognized for his or her lengthy, versatile spines and extremely specialised double jaws that allow them swallow massive prey entire. Now, these distinctive skeletal options have been imaged in beautiful element.

Karly Cohen on the College of Washington in Friday Harbor took these computerised tomography (CT) scans of two purplemouth moray eels (Gymnothorax vicinus) for her colleague Andrew Clark on the Faculty of Charleston in South Carolina, who’s finding out their vertebrae. The photographs, of museum specimens, present the eels’ many vertebrae – 132 in complete.

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Karly Cohen

The scans additionally reveal their fearsome double jaws. These fish use one jaw to seize and maintain their prey, after which their second jaw – which sits additional again of their throat – shoots ahead and drags the prey deep into the eel’s digestive tract. One of many eels nonetheless has a fish inside it that it ate entire. “The fish is means bigger than the mouth of the moray eel itself, so this actually reveals you what they’re in a position to do with their cool morphology,” says Cohen.

She imaged these specimens, every round 80 centimetres lengthy, by soaking them in ethanol to maintain them moist, wrapping them in cheesecloth and curling them up tightly inside 3D-printed plastic cannisters to maintain them in place.

New Scientist Default Image

Karly Cohen

Cohen’s work is a component of a bigger mission aiming to carry out CT scans of all 30,000 recognized species of fish, largely utilizing museum specimens. “CT is a non-destructive strategy to see inside fish and perceive their skeletons, not simply what they seem like on the skin, so it’s a very beneficial software,” says Cohen.

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