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Anatomy of a Bobcat: Scientists reveal new images of the famed feline behind the OHIO mascot

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 anatomy.

“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 Resources.

“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 Communications

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Last updated: 01/28/2016