Friday mystery object #60

Mystery objects are usually items that I come across whilst working my way through the collections in storage at the Horniman Museum. This means you usually end up with a bit of mammal skull, since that’s what I’ve mostly been working with for the last year. Every now and again I stumble across a real mixed bag (or rather box) of specimens that need identification, so here’s another specimen from one of the boxes labelled NH.83.1 that provided mystery object #57 (click on the images for larger versions): 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cack-handed Kate for the loan of her camera and particularly for including the macro lens with it, which has already proved very useful indeed!

As usual, put your observations and suggestions below – but in a break from normal form I’m afraid I won’t be able to answer any questions today, as I am at a wedding and it would be frowned upon for me to be playing with my phone!

16 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #60

  1. It’s the skull of a bird. It’s a relatively small bird, but seems to have quite a large beak. This suggests to me it is a flesh-rippy type bird as opposed to a seed-eater or an insect eator. Object #57 is a duiker, apparently from central Africa but I can’t be sure that this is not a red-herring to indicate the difficulties a humble museum curator experiences.

    Markings indicate it is the 83.1 bird, the high version number indicating it’s pretty advanced but possibly overloaded with features.

    Enjoy the wedding!

    • Your dad suggested vulture when we were in the car. For him this is one of those “oh I know I’ve seen a bird with a beak like that, can’t think where or when”. And to avoid misleading your audience I should point out he grew up in India ….

  2. My first impression was –a parrot
    bot maybe something like a canary.

    The lens is for keeps. You will need to use the screw on bit for 1:1 macro.

      • Just to clarify, when I tapped the bag and said “I want this back” I was referring to the bag. It’s very handy when your dad and I go out because I can carry his spare lenses in it. I thought you heard him say I want a point-and-shoot so I can put it in my bag. I don’t really though since all I need is to point and say “shoot that please” but he is a bit big to fit into even my handbag. I am pleased he added the lens but he says it isn’t a true macro, it needs a ring. Talk to him about that please!

  3. Just added Gary Kaiser’s The Inner Bird to my personal library, so let’s see if it helps!

    I’d agree with others that it has a Procellariiformes look. Bill probably too short for a shearwater. Skull too small for an albatross (I think even on a Yellow-Nosed the skull is about 15cm long). Diving petrels have a short bill, so they’re out.

    Lower mandible is quite slender, so that probably rules a few things out. I think the width of the beak is a bit smaller on storm-petrels; this thing has a very broad beak at the skull.

    So maybe something from Pterodroma?

  4. Yea I think it’s a Procellariiformes judging from the nostril on the beak. I agree with Steven, most probably a petrel.

    This is gonna be a wild guess but I’m gonna say this skull belongs to a Blue Petrel, Halobaena caerulea judging from the size and the beak color.

  5. I have to enquire about the other object in this photo, the ruler with alternating blocks of black and white as well as a unit scale. I have been looking for a ruler like this for photographic use, and having no real success.

    Can you tell me its technical name, and possibly a mfr name of other clue so I can buy one? Crime-scene equipment companies have something similar but not quite right.


    • Actually this is from a crime scene kit. There are a variety of scales that come in the kit, including a couple of rolls of stickers that have metric plus black and white rectangles and imperial with the rectangles. This is one of those that has been attached to a piece of card and the imperial measurements have simply been trimmed off.

      The address on the scale is although the only product at that site which has these is a big kit costing $200. Ours came in a much smaller kit that was much less expensive and I’m sure it came via a different supplier.

      In fact, here is something similar on its own for a tiny fraction of the cost.

      • Thanks, Paolo! I looked at forensic sites and found some with mm on one side and inches on the other. One name for this item, in case anyone else is looking, is “black and white photo scale ruler”.

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