Friday mystery object #239 answer

Last Friday I gave you a really difficult mystery object to identify, in the form of this mysterious caramel-brown lump:

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It turns out that for the first time in ages, nobody managed to get the right identification, although there were a lot of great suggestions ranging from “headless, legless rubber chicken. Which has been burned in a fire some great time ago” by Matt H., to a hyperostotic fish spine, which Jake and henstridgesj had in mind.

This lump is in fact a dentine nodule from inside the tusk of an African Elephant Loxodonta africana (Blumenbach, 1797).

These sorts of internal growths form when a tusk gets damaged and the pulp inside becomes infected. New dentine is laid down in response to the infection, walling off the affected tissue and preventing the further spread of bacteria.

These growths come in a variety of forms – none of which look much like ivory. Here’s a selection to give you an idea:

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So the next time you find something that looks like a burnt rubber chicken, or an overly firm bit of ginger, you may want to check to make sure it’s not ivory.

Friday mystery object #238 answer

Last Friday I gave you this creepy clown doll made of bone to identify:

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There were some great cryptic responses from yogicbear, Claire Miles, Jake, henstridgesj, Daniel Calleri, Robin Birrrdegg and Anne Åslaug Holder identifying that it’s been made from a wishbone, with the unfortunate donor being a Chicken Gallus gallus domesticus (Linnaeus, 1758).

The wishbone is somewhat larger and better formed than the usual one you’ll find in a modern chicken, since modern birds tend to be eaten when they’re much younger than this bird would have been. It came to the Horniman in 1923, donated by English folklorist Edward Lovett.

The second part of last week’s mystery was this sound provided by Cheryl Tipp, curator of the British Library Wildlife Sound Archive:

Again, there were some brilliant cryptic answers to the sound, with an anagram from Claire Miles and two lovely pieces of verse relating to the animal provided by Harry. It is of course the characteristic creaking call of the Corncrake Crex crex (Linnaeus, 1758).

Corncrake by Rachel Davies, 2009

Corncrake by Rachel Davies, 2009

So a big congratulations to everyone who took part – that’ll be the last of the sounds for the time being, next week I’ll have to think about some more specimens to pose a challenge!

Friday mystery object #238

Since it’s Halloween I thought it might be appropriate to have something a bit creepy to identify – and what’s more creepy than clowns? Apart from maybe dolls. So here’s a clown doll:

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Any idea what this creepy little object is made from?

While you’re pondering on that you may want to also have a think about what this eerie noise from the British Library Wildlife Sound Archive is made by:

…and it’s not the sound of a tiny wild clown chasing sheep in the dead of night.

Probably.

Friday mystery object #237 answer

Last Friday I gave you this sound and skull combination to have a go at identifying:

mystery237

As many of you worked out, the skull and call belong to quite different species that share a love of the seaside.

The call belongs to the somewhat enigmatic Common Eider Somateria mollissima (Linnaeus, 1758) as identified by mark b, Chris, Melanie, Henry McGhieAnne Åslaug Holder and stuart petch.

A male Somateria mollissima (Common Eider) at the London Wetland Centre, Barnes, UK. By Diliff, 2013

A male Somateria mollissima (Common Eider) at the London Wetland Centre, Barnes, UK. By Diliff, 2013

These large marine ducks are at home on the water, where they feed on molluscs and crustaceans. They are probably best known for their super-soft downy breast feathers, that the females use to line their nests and humans use to fill their pillows.

The skull belongs to a Razorbill Alca torda Linnaeus, 1758, as identified by Ric Morris, mark b, Chris, MelanieHenry McGhieAnne Åslaug Holder and stuart petch.

Razorbill at bird cliff in Westfjords, Iceland. By Gsd97jks, 2005

Razorbill at bird cliff in Westfjords, Iceland. By Gsd97jks, 2005

These birds are great divers, using their wings to ‘fly’ underwater. They feed on small fish and other slippery critters, caught using that characteristic bill.

Congratulations to everyone who managed to work out what the two species were – there’ll be a final mystery sound from the British Library Wildlife Sound Archive to identify next week, courtesy of curator Cheryl Tipp!

Friday mystery object #237

This week I have another mystery sound from Cheryl Tipp at the British Library Wildlife Sound Archive and skull from the Horniman Museum & Gardens:

mystery237

Do you think the sound and the skull are from the same species, and can you recognise which species?

You can send your answers on a postcard, or if you prefer just pop them in the comments section below… Have fun!

Friday mystery object #236 answer

Last week I gave you this mystery sound and skull to identify, with a the additional challenge of asking whether they belong to the same species:

mystery236

As it turns out several of you managed to get the bird in question. The wide variation and complexity of the song suggested a passerine bird, with a high degree of control of its syrinx. In fact, this species is named for its ability to produce loud and intricate calls containing a range of phrases (incidentally including mimicry of noises it has heard) – it’s a Song Thrush Turdus philomelos Brehm, 1831.

Song Thrush singing a song in a tree. By Taco Meeuwsen 2006

Song Thrush singing a song in a tree. By Taco Meeuwsen 2006

So well done to mark b, Mieke Roth and Melissa Harrison, who all managed to get the right bird. A big thanks also goes to Cheryl Tipp, curator of the Wildlife Sound Archive at the British Library, for supplying the song. I’d heartily recommend checking out the ‘language of birds‘ pages for more information on birdsong!