By Angelita Faller
(ATHENS, Ohio—Oct. 6, 2014) As Ohio University
students celebrate Homecoming this week, many will be lucky to catch
a glimpse of their beloved mascot, Rufus the Bobcat, who is
celebrating his 54th
anniversary in Athens.
Few students have had the chance to spot a bobcat in the wild,
much less learn about the biology of these famed felines.
In honor of Homecoming, Lawrence Witmer, a professor of anatomy
in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, and his third-year
biological sciences doctoral student Don Cerio, have launched the
Visible Interactive Bobcat website with free, downloadable 3D PDFs
and YouTube videos displaying the bobcat’s skull and soft tissue
“We thought it was a great choice to do some science on the
animal that actually represents us as a university. The bobcat is
endangered in Ohio, so it makes sense for us to learn more about the
animal our university has been so associated with. A lot of people
don’t know that Rufus is part of the scientific name for the animal,
Lynx rufus,” Witmer said.
Witmer’s team is best known for its work on the Visible
Interactive Dinosaur project, which creates 3D visualizations of the
soft tissue anatomy in the skulls of animals, particularly
dinosaurs. The Visible Interactive Bobcat is the seventh project in
the WitmerLab’s Visible Interactive Anatomy series, which is funded
by a National Science Foundation grant.
Witmer’s team uses the university’s microCT scanner to
reconstruct the skull and soft tissue anatomy of animals. For the
latest project, the microCT scanner took more than 1,500 X-rays of
the bobcat’s skull to create the virtual 3D image.
Studying the skull anatomy of live animals can help scientists
understand the anatomy of extinct animals. The tooth structure of a
bobcat, a carnivore, can give scientists a sense of how the tooth
structure of other carnivores, such as a Tyrannosaurus rex, work.
The adult bobcat that served as the star of the Visible
Interactive Bobcat project was a resident of Athens County who was
donated to the university by the Ohio Department of Natural
“I’ve really developed a new appreciation for this animal. It’s
sad that this particular animal died, but the fact that we can get
so much information out of it, compare it with extinct animals as
well as modern day animals, and learn about their anatomy is really
cool,” Cerio said.
The Visible Interactive Bobcat project can be found at
Story courtesy of Ohio University Office of Research