Rhinoceros Unicornis

Endocrine Surgeon: …another concerning risk at the moment is the potential damage to your parathyroid glands during the thyroidectomy.

Patient’s wife: What are they, doctor?

ES: Well, our med student can answer that.

Me: hmm? urh, well, they, uh, regulate calcium in the blood and…uh…

ES: Yes! (Spins on chair) Did you know they were the last organ to be discovered?

Me: No…wow.

ES: What year were they discovered?

Me: ummm…I don’t know.

ES: I want you to find out what year, who discovered them and what colour the animal was that they were discovered on.

Me: haha. Seriously?

ES: uh, yes.

Patient: Was it a monkey?

ES: No.

Patient’s Wife: A dog?

ES: No. Stop narrowing it down for her.

So far I’ve got:

The parathyroids were discovered by Richard Owen in 1850 in an Indian Rhinocerous (Rhinoceros Unicornis, now the emblem of the International Association of Endocrine Surgeons) that died after a fractured rib punctured its lung and was bequeathed to him by some Zoo in London. He used to get all kinds of animal carcasses offloaded to him for his research. His wife apparently walked in to find the Rhino lying in her hallway. She was pissed. He also critiqued and argued with Darwin. He was badass.

Parathyroid glands were then first discovered in humans 30 years later in 1880 by Ivar Sandstrom, a swedish medical student. This piece of information upset me somewhat and led to feelings of  incredible inadequacy. Not only have I failed to be involved in research thus far, but I have almost certainly missed the boat in terms of discovering new organs.

But back to the Rhino. I know it had been living in the Zoo for 15 years before its death. The Zoo had paid 1000 guineas for it. It fell and fractured a rib leading to a punctured lung. It then vomited slimy blood streaked vomit for weeks leading up to its collapse and death. What I CANNOT find, no matter how many google searches I run, is WHAT COLOUR THE FREAKING RHINO WAS.

It’s not black. Its not albino either.

Endocrine Surgeon smiled and said “Well done. But no. Not black. Not albino. More research. You’ll understand why its important when you know the answer.”

Anyone have any idea?

Is this some sort of in-endocrine joke that I’m not getting?


added to note:

I’m an idiot who read wikipedia wrong in my haste yesterday;

This prehistoric-looking rhinoceros has thick, silver-brown skin which becomes pinkish near the large skin folds that cover its body. Males develop thick neck-folds. Its upper legs and shoulders are covered in wart-like bumps. It has very little body hair, aside from eyelashes, ear-fringes and tail-brush.

I still don’t get the joke.


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9 Responses to “Rhinoceros Unicornis”

  1. *C Says:

    That’s awesome. In a moment of *craziness* (I’m going wild here) I actually looked up rhinoceros in Robbins, before I remembered I was intending to look up parathyroid. Strangely enough, they didn’t include a potted history of the parathyroid in the old Pathologic Basis of Disease. What’s wrong with these people?

    Clearly procrastinating.

  2. *C Says:

    Maybe there’s some parathyroid disorder where you develop thick, silver-brown skin that becomes pinkish near large skin folds, you get covered in wart-like bumps, loose all your body hair, aside from eyelashes, then grow ear-fringes and a tail-brush?

  3. hayley Egan Says:

    umm do you work for dr house?

  4. bronze john Says:

    I don’t know why I think this could be relevant, but the white rhinoceros isn’t white, I think it’s “wide-lipped”.

    And I can’t think of any way hyperparathyroidism (leading to really big and thus “easy to discover” parathyroid glands) could cause an alteration in colour, either. Dark skinned animals (like people) may have vitamin D deficiency and thus secondary hyperparathyroidism, and renal failure causes skin discolouration…

    Maybe he’s just messing with you.

  5. anonymous Says:

    Waxing poetically, I’ll hazard a guess he was referencing the coat of reddish-brown hair which covers most of the Sumatran rhino’s body. In essence, a correlative color descriptor once the gland(s) has become an adenoma(s).

    In my opinion Bronze John, you’re likely correct that ‘directly’ PHPT would not cause an alteration in skin color. However keeping in mind the possibility of multiple endocrine gland involvement ( i.e. MEN Syndromes, PGA Syndromes, etc.) which in some people would involve the adrenals (A.I. / Addison’s), bronzing of the skin can be a sign, and therefore in my opinion, indirectly associated with this type of familial inheritance.

    And to “C”, yes there are many of us (PHPT patients) who do lose our hair, including much of it on the body. We lose so much more than that, though. Ah, but this is your blog…my apology, and thank you for your willingness to share.


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