Magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography as tools for the investigation of sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) teeth and eye

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Background: Scanning techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) are
useful tools in veterinary and human medicine. Here we demonstrate the usefulness of these techniques in the study
of the anatomy of wild marine mammals as part of a necropsy. MRI and CT scans of sperm whale teeth (n = 4) were
performed. The methods were compared and further compared to current standard methods for evaluation of tooth
layering. For MRI a zero echo time sequence was used, as previously done for imaging of intact human teeth. For CT
two different clinical scanners were used.
Results: The three scanners did not provide sufficient information to allow age estimation, but both MRI and CT
provided anatomical information about the tooth cortex and medulla without the need for sectioning the teeth. MRI
scanning was also employed for visualizing the vascularization of an intact eye from one of the stranded sperm whale.
Conclusions: Clearly, MRI was useful for investigation of the retinal vasculation, but optimum results would require
well-preserved tissue. It was not possible to estimate age based on CT scans of tooth growth lines. Further research
is needed to clarify the usability of MRI and CT as tools for marine mammal research when samples need to remain
intact or when a spatial (three dimensional) arrangement of features needs to be determined.
Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Veterinaria Scandinavica (Online)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2017

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