Fetal Pig Dissection

**WARNING: The images in this blog post may be unpleasant to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

Recently, in my AP Biology class, I had the opportunity to dissect a fetal pig. While I am comfortable with dissecting organisms, dissecting an organism that was premature was a little difficult for me. However, the fact that the organism was sacrificed for science gave me the courage to preform the dissection.


photo 3
Small hole posterior to the umbilical cord

Through this experience, I became more familiar with the anatomy of the fetal pig, which is similar to the anatomy of humans. Before the dissecting began, my group members and I identified the gender of the pig. Male fetal pigs have a small hole posterior to the umbilical cord. Female fetal pigs have a small hole ventral to the anus. My group and I determined that our pig was a male. When we identified the gender of our pig, I wondered where the penis of the male pig was because the penis was not externally visible. After some research, I found out that the penis of male fetal pigs is located inside the pig, near the bladder.


Next came the fun part: dissecting. Once the pig was dissected, my group and I observed

Fetal Pig (blood drained)
Fetal Pig (blood drained)

the organs of the lower body, such as the liver, pancreas, large intestine, and small intestine. I was very interested to discover that the liver of a pig has five lobes. This discovery made me ask: how many lobes does a human liver have? After some research, I discovered that the human liver has four lobes. Once I discovered this difference between the anatomies of pigs and humans, I made sure that I kept my eye out for other differences. Once we removed the digestive organs, I was able to see just how long the small intestine was. I estimated the small intestine to be about 15 feet. Beneath the digestive organs were the kidneys, which were surprisingly large for a fetal pig.

photo 2Then, my group and I observed the respiratory system and heart. The lungs and heart were, again, much larger than I thought the organs would be. This pig was filled with surprises. Also, the pericardium, the sac that makes sure that the heart stays in the chest cavity, was clearly visible. I had never seen the pericardium so visible before in any of my other dissections. Next, my group and I shifted our attention to the trachea. The trachea had a series of visible rings, which I later found out were rings of cartilage that prevent the trachea from collapsing when no air is present in the structure. These rings of cartilage are also present in the human trachea.

Even though I was skeptical about this experience at first, I am glad that I carried through. This experience has allowed me to better understand the anatomy of the pig (and humans) by providing a visual aid of where certain organs and structures are located. I enjoyed this experience and I really think that dissection is an experience everyone should be allowed to have at least once in his/her lifetime.

Click here to experience virtual dissection: Virtual Dissection

View the video to experience the anatomy of a fetal pig


Fetal Pig Dissection. Prod. Zerobio. YouTube. YouTube, 28 Aug. 2008. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWikhoXMxkI&gt;.

“Fetal Pig – Urogenital.” N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <http://www.upt.pitt.edu/ntress/Bio1_Lab_Manual_New/fetal_pig_urogenital_intro.htm&gt;.

“Liver.” InnerBody. HOWTOMEDIA, INC, 2013. Web. 13 Apr. 2014. <http://www.innerbody.com/image_digeov/card10-new2.html&gt;.

“Virtual Fetal Pig Dissection.” Whitman College. Whitman College, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <http://www.whitman.edu/academics/courses-of-study/biology/virtual-pig/&gt;.


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