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Zoo's Animal X-Rays Reveal Spooky, Scary Skeletons

The Oregon Zoo recently posted a series of tweets that included incredible animal X-rays, showcasing the beauty of the zoo's animals on the inside.

From the wings of a flying fox, to a toucan's skull, to the spindly legs of a flamingo, animals' incredible skeletal adaptations are pictured in eerie black and white, offering a Halloween-worthy peek at the bones under layers of skin, muscle and fat. [See X-ray images of the Oregon Zoo animals]

Some of the images show the skeletons in their entirety. Inside the undulating body of a ball python (Python regius), a lengthy chain of vertebrae is framed by ribs running almost the entire length of its sinuous form. Meanwhile, a Rodrigues flying fox (Pteropus rodricensis) lifts its wings overhead, revealing the elongated finger bones inside them.

Other images zoom in for a closer look at animals' exceptional adaptations. In a beaver's broad, flat tail, a line of vertebrae extends almost to the tail's tip, with the individual bones growing ever-smaller as they progress away from the pelvis. An X-ray of the skull of a Cape porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis) reveals the heft of its molars and a dramatic curve to its powerful incisors.

Inside this hedgehog, a dark blob near its ribcage is a tiny ball of gas. (Image credit: Oregon Zoo)

To get these extraordinary images, the veterinary staff turned to digital radiography, a type of X-ray imaging that uses digital image-capture technology instead of printing images to film. Digital radiology enables veterinarians and technicians to adjust the exposure in their images after taking them; this means that image capture can happen more quickly, and the animals can spend less time under anesthesia, zoo representatives wrote in a blog post.

The process also allows veterinarians to create a digital archive and easily share X-rays with animal caregivers at other zoos, according to the post. But perhaps most important, digital X-rays provide detailed, high-resolution images, "which helps ensure excellent health care for the animals," zoo representatives said in a statement.

"It also provides a unique glimpse inside the world of wildlife," they added.

Originally publishedon Live Science.