To reveal that which is unseen with the naked eye is a pursuit humans have long delighted in – from photos of galactic pinwheels to bacteria swimming under the lens of a microscope to X-rays of bones hidden beneath flesh and sinew.
A veterinary team at ZSL London Zoo is helping to indulge our curiosity by providing us with a selection of X-ray images from their 18,000 animals.
“We can tell so much about an animal’s health from looking at an X-ray – from the strength of their bones to how healthy their heart is,” said Heather Macintosh, a ZSL London Zoo veterinary nurse, in a statement. “They’re vital to our work, and even though we get to see unique X-rays fairly often we still think that they’re absolutely fascinating.”
Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum)
Gila monsters are large, sluggish lizards patterned in a bewitching black and orange. These venomous reptiles can forgo food for months before chomping on their next meal, which can consist of mice, squirrels, birds, lizards, and eggs. These 2-foot-long lizards spend around 90 percent of their time in burrows or rocky havens.
Large hairy armadillo (Chaetophractus villosus)
“Most people can recognise a human X-ray, but they probably haven’t seen the individual segments of a large hairy armadillo’s exoskeleton,” noted Macintosh.
Unlike Gila monsters, these hairy little fellows are quite the feeders – often looking for tasty insects, invertebrates, and plants. In their quest for food, they have been found burrowing under carcasses to obtain maggots and grubs.
Corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus)
These bright beauties may be gorgeous to look at but they’re not quite doting parents. After they lay their eggs in rotting stumps or decaying vegetation – essentially some place with good heat and humidity to incubate them – they slither away, never to see their younglings again.
“My favourite X-rays are definitely the snakes: humans have 33 vertebrae while snakes have between 200 and 400, which is how they’re so incredibly agile – it’s amazing to see it on screen.”
Big-headed turtle (Platysternon megacephalum)
This one is a bit of an oddball in the turtle world, thus its rather impolite name. This turtle has a huge head and long tail compared to its squat body. Unlike most turtle species, this nocturnal creature can’t withdraw into its shell. It is listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List.
Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko)
In order to attract a mate, male tokay geckoes make a loud “tokay-tokay” call. They also have folds of skin that help them hide from predators by squishing their body flat against a tree, preventing a shadow from revealing their presence.
“It’s great to be able to share the work that goes on behind the scenes at the Zoo to keep our residents in tip-top condition,” said Macintosh.
These images were released as part of their Vets in Action week, which is when children join vets to go behind the scenes and learn about the animals at the zoo.
If that wasn’t enough, we’ve added X-ray images taken by Oregon Zoo too.
And here’s one of a hedgehog that swelled up like a beach ball.