Some time ago, Kieran and I ordered a dead rattlesnake, some species of Crotalus, from the wonderful Carolina Biological Supply Co., the same outfit that supplied us with the preserved hearts and brains we dissected in the past. Today we studied up on snake anatomy and got to work dissecting. Because a snake is so long and slender, it has to cleverly pack its internal organs inside its body, which makes finding and identifying them a bit of a challenge. But we were able to find the venom glands, heart, lungs, liver and intestines, plus what we think are fat-storage bodies. And we found what are either kidneys or testes — we couldn’t be sure. As always, hands-on science is the best. Neither of us had ever dissected a rattlesnake before.

Dog and snake

As always, our trusty assistant was there to help!

RattleHeadBig snakeFinding the fangCutting open the bellyCompleting the cut

Crotalus heart

The rattlesnake’s heart.

Crotalus heart

A close view of the heart, showing veins and arteries.

Crotalus liver

The snake’s long, thin liver.

Studying the liver 2

Crotalus liver

A close up of the liver. All the snake’s organs have to fit inside its long, narrow body.

Crotalus lung

Spongy tissue of the lung.

Final disposition

Musculature of the head

Muscles of the head.

Side of the head

Major venom gland

We cut open one of the major venom glands on the roof of the mouth.

Snake skin

Drying the skin.

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