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Biologists use X-ray machines to study endangered Klamath fish

By Ron Brown, Newswatch 12, KDRV 12/8/08

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -- Fish biologists are using mammography equipment to study endangered sucker fish.
Researchers say there are three species of sucker fish in the Klamath Basin: The Lost River, the Shortnose, and the Klamath large-scale. The Lost River and Shortnose are on the endangered species list.
Oregon Institute of Technology students in the radiology program are using digital X-ray machines, normally for breast exams, to X-ray and identify the sucker fish.
"In this case, the detail that we see with soft tissue in the breast actually enables us to image the vertebrae in the little sucker fish. And, in that case, we're actually counting the number of vertebrae to determine what species of sucker fish they are," says Debbie Caldwell with the OIT Medical Imaging Department.
By enlarging the X-rays and confirming with other markers, such as head shape and lip size, biologists can better estimate the fish populations. The fish range in size from 3/4 inch to 4.5 inches long.
This is the second year that the USFW technicians have brought their fish samples to the OIT radiology lab. By working here, they avoid a trip to Oregon State University.

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