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Aruba Island Rattlesnake Necropsy Protocol


    Necropsy Protocol: Aruba Island Rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus unicolor)


          A thorough postmortem examination should be performed on any Aruba Island rattlesnakes that die at institutions keeping this species.  The following are recommendations for sample collection in addition to institution practices. This protocol has been established in order to standardize necropsies performed on Aruba Island rattlesnakes.  There is no charge for any of the following work.

    Tissue collection

          Collect a small section of all major tissues (heart, lung (a minimum of two sites from mid-body and caudal areas), splenopancreas, thyroid, thymus, esophagus, stomach, multiple sections of intestine, kidney, adrenal gland, gonads, oviduct, muscle, bone marrow, and brain) in 10% buffered formalin.  Additional sections of lung, liver, splenopancreas, kidney, and any tissue with obvious gross lesions should be frozen at -30 to -70 degrees C (if possible) for future viral isolation, mycobacterial, bacterial, or fungal culture.  Freeze multiple sections of lung for paramyxovirus studies if pneumonia is suspected.  For smaller individuals, open the coelomic cavity, collect and freeze samples of larger organs that can be reasonably collected without disruption of tissues for histopathology (e.g. lung and liver), and place the entire carcass in 10% buffered formalin. The University of Florida, Zoology Laboratory will perform the histopathologic examination. Please send all necropsy samples and a copy of the gross necropsy report to Dr. Brian Stacy at  The results should be available in 4-8 weeks. If there is a rush on histopathology or other concerns, please inform Dr. Stacy at the time of sample submission.

    Other samples

    1)  Include a description of the gross findings, body weight in grams at the time of death, important clinical history.

    2)  Anaerobic, aerobic and fungal cultures of various lesions should be taken when indicated. Please send a copy of the results to Dr. Jim Wellehan at


          Ship frozen specimens only on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.  Notify Dr. Stacy and Dr. Wellehan of impending arrivals at the time of shipment.  Use dry ice to maintain package temperature if possible.  If the head is shipped, place it in a hard plastic container.  Separate formalin tissues from frozen tissues within the package or ship them separately.  Please label all specimens with your institution, animal identification and date of collection.

          Please ship all samples to: 

                Brian Stacy, DVM, Dipl ACVP, University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine, 2015 SW 16th Avenue, Building 1017, Room V2-238, Gainesville, Florida 32610, (352)-392-4700 ext. 5775

    Additional recommendations

          Please use appropriate precautions when handling the head.  General recommendations are to remove the head, place it in 10% formalin and either remove the brain after at least 24-48 hours fixation (large specimens) or decalcify and serially section the entire head (smaller specimens).  Following fixation, continue to use caution when handling the head and incising into venom glands as all toxic principles may not be completely deactivated.

          Institutions that have their own regular pathology service are requested to collect and send samples in addition to their own when possible. 


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