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09.11.2017 | Original Scientific Report | Ausgabe 2/2018 Open Access

World Journal of Surgery 2/2018

Parathyroid, Thyroid and Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Anatomy in an Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)

World Journal of Surgery > Ausgabe 2/2018
R. Udelsman, S. B. Citino, M. Prasad, P. I. Donovan, D. V. Fredholm



The parathyroid gland was first identified in the Indian rhinoceros in 1849 by Sir Richard Owen. We performed a necropsy in an Indian rhinoceros, recapitulating Owen’s dissection and display what appear to be the initial identification of the recurrent laryngeal nerve in situ and the anatomy and histology of the largest rhinoceros parathyroid glands yet identified.

Materials and methods

Patrick T. Rhino, a 41-year-old Indian rhinoceros was born in 1974. His early years were unremarkable. In 2006, he was donated to White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Florida, where he bred and sustained minor injuries. In his geriatric years, he developed a cataract and degenerative joint disease (DJD). At age 41, he developed progressive ataxia and lameness and was euthanized to minimize suffering when he was unable to stand. ROS, FH, SH and medication history were unremarkable. Physical exam was age and species appropriate. Pre-mortem serum demonstrated: creat 1.8 mg/dL (0.8–2.1), calcium 10.6 mg/dL (9.7–13.1), phos 3.8 mg/dL (2.5–6.7), alk phos 69 U/L (26–158) and intact PTH 44.1 pg/mL (rhinoceros reference range: unknown). Necropsy revealed intervertebral DJD with thoracic spondylosis, which combined with osteoporosis, resulted in thoracic myelopathy and ataxia. The neck block was sent in formalin to the Yale University School of Medicine.


Detailed dissection was performed under loupe magnification. Presumed structures were photographed in situ and biopsied. The thyroid was identified deep to the strap muscles, received its blood supply from the inferior and superior thyroid arteries and was blue in color. The right recurrent laryngeal nerve, identified and photographed in situ for the first time in the rhinoceros, was deep to the inferior thyroid artery and was traced throughout its cervical course. Single parathyroid glands identified on the lateral thyroid lobes received their blood supply from the inferior thyroid arteries and were confirmed histologically. They appear to be the largest parathyroids yet identified in the rhinoceros with estimated weights of 6,280 and 11,000 mg, respectively. Although the etiology of the parathyroid gland enlargement is unknown, the specimen has been preserved recapitulating the dissection performed by Sir Richard Owen.


The parathyroids, thyroid and recurrent laryngeal nerve were identified in an Indian rhinoceros. This appears to be the first display of the rhinoceros recurrent laryngeal nerve in situ, and the parathyroid glands are the largest yet identified in the rhinoceros.

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