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Karly Cohen and her detailed CT scans of moray eels featured in New Scientist

Friday, October 8, 2021 - 08:00

Karly Cohen, UW Biology graduate student, was recently featured in New Scientist for her detailed images of moray eel skeletons. Moray eels are known for their long, flexible spines and highly specialized double jaws that let them swallow large prey whole. Karly was able to capture these unique skeletal features in exquisite detail via computerised tomography (CT) scans.

The images, of museum specimens, show the eels’ many vertebrae – 132 in total.
 
The scans also reveal their fearsome double jaws. These fish use one jaw to grab and hold their prey, and then their second jaw – which sits further back in their throat – shoots forward and drags the prey deep into the eel’s digestive tract. One of the eels still has a fish inside it that it ate whole. “The fish is way larger than the mouth of the moray eel itself, so this really shows you what they’re able to do with their cool morphology,” says Cohen.
 
She imaged these specimens, each around 80 centimetres long, by soaking them in ethanol to keep them moist, wrapping them in cheesecloth and curling them up tightly inside 3D-printed plastic cannisters to keep them in place.
 
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