The Turkey Anatomy Lesson

Mary
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In the proud tradition of our upcoming "Mental Floss Presents: Medical School in a Box," my husband and I are proud to present "What We Did With Our Thanksgiving Leftovers," or, "The Turkey Anatomy Lesson." For the sake of the squeamish, most of the pictures are after the jump.

Here you see the turkey after the major surgical incision to open its belly. In medicine (right), this is known as a laparotomy. In the kitchen (left), it is known as "let's stuff that thing."

backbone.jpgThis is the turkey's backbone. The fibers you see are ganglia and nerves running down the "sympathetic trunk," alongside the thoracic spine -- when you get the fight-or-flight urge, this system is the reason why. If you have chronically sweaty palms ("hyperhidrosis palmaris," in the literature), surgeons can sever those nerves in what's called a "sympathectomy." I somehow doubt that turkeys get sweaty palms, though, so let's move on.

Check after the jump for the spinal cord, liver, diaphragm, and heart.

IMG_0985.jpg
Here's the lumbar spine again, this time viewed in cross section. The white thing at the end of the knife is the spinal cord. The gray matter at its center is nerve cell bodies, while the surrounding white matter is made of axons. They're white because they're oozing with myelin, a cholesterol derivative, which helps in conducting nerve impulses.

diaphragm.jpgThis beauty is the diaphragm (at least we think it's the diaphragm), actually, this looks like the human diaphragm but is apparently the gizzard, which the turkey uses to grind up food.
liver.jpgIf they made foie gras from turkeys, this would be a delicacy -- it's the liver. The hubby says the white bit at the end of the knife is the vena cava, the body's largest vein. This is an exceptionally bad place to be injured because it's hard for surgeons to get control of the bleeding -- the liver gets in the way.

heart1.jpgDing ding ding! Finally we get to the heart. This is the left ventricle opened up, with the atrioventricular valve shown at the top. The sinewy fibers all around it are chordae tendinae, which anchor the heart valves to the papillary muscles.

heart2.jpgHere you can see the thick wall of the left ventricle, which is so massive because its job is to push the blood all the way around the body. The right ventricle is comparatively wimpy, because (at least in humans) all it has to do is get blood through the lungs and back to the heart.

heart3.jpgThe top of the heart (at right) is called the base, and the bottom is called the apex -- this is because the heart is shaped like an upside-down triangle. If you squint really hard you may also be able to see the dark coronary arteries on the surface of the heart muscle. Also, ew! That white stuff on the top of the heart is fat.

Having eaten the turkey, we are also now quite fat, and thus we have concluded that the operation was a success.

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November 28, 2006 - 12:47pm
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