Animal and human anatomy

This section covers:

International standards and resources

Anatomical terms for domestic animals are defined by the International Committee on Veterinary Gross Anatomical Nomenclature of the World Association of Veterinary Anatomists (WAVA) and published in Nomina anatomica veterinaria.

Avian anatomical terms are defined by the WAVA International Committee on Avian Anatomical Nomenclature and published in the Handbook of avian anatomy: nomina anatomica avium.

Human anatomical terms were defined by the Federative Committee on Anatomical Terminology and the International Federation of Associations of Anatomists, and published in Terminologia anatomica.

Australian conventions and resources

Australian usage follows international standards. Neither the Australasian Institute of Anatomical Sciences nor the Australian and New Zealand Association of Clinical Anatomists lists any specific Australian sources or conventions.

Anatomical classification

Anatomical classification for animals (including humans) uses sets of Latin terms similar to those used for genus and species names. Basic binomial anatomical names consist of the name of the type of structure (eg ‘arterium’, ‘os’ [bone], ‘musculus’) and at least 1 descriptor of that entity (eg ‘femoralis’, ‘rectus’). Several additional descriptors are often added to show the position and orientation of the body part (eg ‘externus’, ‘dorsi’, ‘descendens’). Do not italicise or capitalise any of the Latin words:

arterium femoralis     os femoralis     musculus transversus abdominis

However, when the structural group is abbreviated (using Latin singular and plural formats), use an initial capital followed by a full stop:

arterium (A.), arteria (Aa.)     ligamentum (Lig.), ligamenta (Ligg.)     musculum (M.), musculi (Mm.)

The superficial pectoral muscles (Mm. pectorales superficiales) comprise descending and transverse muscles (M. pectoralis descendens, M. pectoralis transversus).

Did you know? Latin terms follow the rules for Latin grammar (eg for nominative and genitive case, singular, plural). See Nomina anatomica veterinaria (pages xiii to xvii) for an explanation of these word endings.

Os (bone) is never abbreviated.

In most texts, the Latin names are replaced by common names. British spelling is preferred for common names in Australian texts. Use an initial capital only for proper nouns:

femoral artery     femur     transverse abdominal muscle     Achilles tendon

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Postmortem examination

The procedure of examining a body after death is called a postmortem (or postmortem examination), autopsy or, in the case of nonhuman animals, necropsy. We recommend using postmortem in all cases (for both humans and nonhuman animals).

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