I opened the amnion of the first snake fetus...
...and then continued opening the mother's body to reveal all the unborn young.
There were a total of 16 fetuses.
I began the grisly task of laying out the fetuses. It was kind of sad, all these fetuses dead. Sure, rattlesnakes are poisonous and can hurt you or your dog or cat, but they're an important predator here in the desert. Without them we'd be overrun with packrats and other rodents.
Most reptiles lay eggs. Rattlesnakes, though, keep their eggs inside their bodies. This may have given rise to the old superstition that snakes eat their babies when they are in danger.
Barry was sad, too. He just puts on a brave face.
Or maybe he was just hoping I wouldn't drop his new digital camera into the bloody operating theater.
Young rattlesnakes are really quite beautiful...
... and quite lethal. I'm told that juvenile rattlesnakes have a venom that is even more potent than that of the adult.
We continued the post-mortem exam...
...here we see the heart and a bit of the liver.
I'm not exactly sure what this structure is. My guess is that it's pancreas, but any of you snake experts out there can email me the correct answer if you want.
We prepared the skin after the autopsy; Nadia examines the finished work.
Unfortunately, it was sunset for another desert critter, a casualty of humankind's increasing encroachment on their space.
© 1998-2003 Lee Fike
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