AP Bio Students Explore Pig Anatomy

An AP Bio student makes an incision on the fetal pig. Photo Credit: Isabella Francois

An AP Bio student makes an incision on the fetal pig. Photo Credit: Isabella Francois


Scalpels and forceps were ready as Ms. Jessica Ross prepared her AP Biology students for their annual fetal pig dissections on May 28-30. The in-depth dissections took up the entire double-period of the class each day.

“The importance of this dissection to my students’ education is that they’re able to see the anatomical structures that they’ve only discussed in class,'' said Ms. Ross.

Fetal pigs are used because they are similar to the interior of a human in terms of the respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems, and they are large enough that students can see all the parts of the animal.

“The pigs come from Carolina Biological, a company that also provides a variety of other animals and dissection equipment,” said Ms. Ross. “The fetals are sold to us double injected with latex so that students are able to distinguish the blue and red veins.”

Mother pigs that were used for meat while they were pregnant had their fetuses removed and sold to the biology company.

Students in the class were full of chatter, anxious to get first-hand experience into what body organs look like.

“I feel ecstatic,” said Rachel Kravchenko ’20. “We’ve learned a lot about the systems of the body, but nothing can really prepare you for the actual dissection.”

Students were paired up and given a bagged pig, metal tray, scalpel, forceps, scissors, gloves, and protective masks for their noses and mouths.

“The smell just killed me,” said Christina Mitrou ’20. “It smells bad. Really bad.”

As their first task, students were asked to examine and identify the main internal organs such as the heart, intestines, kidneys, reproductives organs, and stomach.

“Sometimes the organs are hard to find because they’re discolored, and the overall condition of the pig really varies,'' said Saiyan Joseph ’20.

The gender of the pig was determined by searching around the umbilical artery and looking for the male testes or the female ovaries.

“We thought we had a girl, so we named her Porketta, but then we realized it was actually a boy, so that was pretty funny,” said Mitrou.

After the students explored the main organs, they were able to do as they pleased.

“My partner and I decided to cut into the skull and see the brain,” said Joseph. “We had a really mushy brain, so I was a bit upset, but it was still interesting to see.”

Ms. Ross set rules for how to behave because it was important to be respectful to the animals’ bodies.

“I’m very clear to my students about how they should act towards the animals, deceased or not,'' said Ms. Ross. “I don’t mind my students opening the animal up to explore other body parts we haven’t discussed, but don’t do it just for fun.”

The dissection is an rewarding way to end a year of tough course work.

“If you’re willing to do the work, I definitely recommend AP Biology,” said Kravchenko.

Casey Levinson