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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

New Llama: Some Assembly Required

March 9th, 2012

llama skeleton

How many vet students does it take to build a llama? According to CVM student Britton Nixon, two can do it but it’s not easy.

Last summer, anatomy professor Terri Clark ordered a box of llama bones and assigned Nixon and fellow student Andrea DeCoite the job of assembling them. The first objective of the two women was to determine the shape and posture of the average llama. For that they turned to the OSU llama herd. “Andrea and I were out there trying to take pictures of a ‘normal llama stance’, and then measuring distances with a tape measure to get an idea of shoulder placement, angle of the neck, and curvature of the spine,” says Nixon. “Needless to say, the llamas were generally uncooperative.

Another tricky aspect of the project was to coordinate the stance of the llama skeleton with the design of the pedestal and supports; getting the many pieces glued together in perfect placement proved challenging.  “The hardest part was getting the right angle for the curvature of the spine,” says Nixon. “The sacrum placement on the [support] rod was twisting the whole spine in unimaginably weird ways. There was a lot of epoxying, scraping, then re-epoxying; several rounds of this for the spine.”

Steve Lehto, CVM man-of-many-talents, built the pedestal and supports for the skeleton. He is also building a large beetle box for defleshing a student-owned elk head.

Dr. Clark says the two women did a good job and hopes they can complete the articulation of a goat skeleton this coming summer. “It was rewarding to see the finished product,” says Nixon. “It was a lot of fun with a steep learning curve. I’m sure if Andrea or I build another, not only will it go faster but less epoxy will be involved.”


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