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Raja clavata / Thornback ray

This CT scan of Raja clavata, or thornback ray, shows how accurately named is this species of skate. Their back is full of mineralized denticles (yellow) harder than our bones.

Maybe, after all, dragons were not lizards but skates!

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Stingray's skeleton under X-rays

MicroCT image of the stingray's skeleton.


Although elasmobranchs have a skeleton made with cartilage (gelatine-like tissue), it is surrounded by a thin layer which is mineralized. This layer is formed by abutting tiles forming a mosaic (as it can be seen in the image). Due to this structure, the layer is called tesserae.

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Stingray's skeleton under the laser

Confocal image of a cross section of the stingray skeleton. Blue dots correspond to cells, the chondrocytes (stained with DAPI) and the red regions are the tesserae (autofluorescence image). 


The life within one tessera

Synchrotron image of one single tesserae tile, showing all the cells living inside (coloured blobs). 

The presence of chondrocytes living surrounded by a mineralized matrix (tesserae) is a unique feature of elasmobranchs, since this characteristic is usually attributed to osteocytes (bone cells) in other vertebrates. 


Raja asterias' skeleton

MicroCT image of the Raja asterias' tessellated skeleton. This skeletal area was located near the fins that support the skate's wings. 

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White shark's head under X-rays

Analyzing the white shark's (Carcharodon carcharias) head under microCT we can see teeth are the most mineralized parts of the head, followed by the vertebrae. In addition, different teeth rows can be appreciated, some of them still hidden.


Raja asterias or Starry ray

This species is mainly found in the Mediterranean Sea in areas deeper than 170 m. 

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