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leatherback turtle necropsy

A Rare Chance to Examine a Rare Turtle

A panoply of uncommon stories and specimens passes through Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Computerized Scanning and Imaging Facility. In May 2007, a team of biologists and veterinarians used the facility to conduct a necropsy on a 900-pound leatherback turtle.  The leatherback, an endangered species, was inadvertently caught in April 2007 off Florida. (The turtle was kept for a 24-hour observation period before being confirmed dead, said Teri Frady of the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center, which accounts for this and other incidental catches as the federal Endangered Species Act mandates.) The unintentional catch did have a positive side: It presented a rare opportunity to learn more about this species. WHOI staff used the high-resolution medical scanner to create precise three-dimensional visualizations of the leatherback's internal structure, which are impossible to obtain by dissection. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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