Friday mystery object #157 answer


Apologies for a late and rather short answer to last week’s mystery object, I was in Scotland for the wedding of a very good friend this weekend and haven’t had much time for writing.

On Friday I gave you this skull to identify:

It’s pretty distinctive and I wasn’t surprised to see the correct identification popping up in short order. The big scars above the eye sockets indicate that this bird had large glands for extracting excess salt, which means it was a marine bird. The shape of the bill, particularly the mandible, is also quite characteristic and the wide triangular pterygoid bones of the palate are a give-away for this group.

Pterygoid region highlighted

Pterygoid bones highlighted

Ian managed to get the correct species identification within the first hour with Barbara Powell and Robin reaching the same conclusion after some comparison at the very useful Seabird Osteology website. This is the skull of a Jackass Penguin (AKA African Penguin or Black-footed Penguin) Spheniscus demersus (Linnaeus, 1758).

These charismatic little Penguins are found along the coast of South Africa and Namibia, although they spend much of their time out at sea hunting for fish, squid and krill. They get their name from their braying call and because they inhabit warmer climes than other Penguins people actually get to hear them.

I will leave you with a video of some Jackass Penguins in action in South Africa (apologies if the music gets annoying…):

8 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #157 answer

  1. I posted somewhat cryptically on Friday refering to the bird possibly having a white head in the Welsh language. The translation of ‘white head’ is ‘pen gwyn’ but in reality a penguin’s head is mostly black, so it’s a purely linguistic pun.

  2. Slightly belatedly: Woohoo! Not bad for a computer programmer! Sorry about just blurting out the binomial: dumb of me not to realize that the protocol is to be a bit more cryptic so as not to spoil it for everyone. I’m afraid my technique — well, it looks a bit penguiny; what does Google find in the way of penguin skull images?; oh, that one looks just like it — is unlikely to work very often.

    • Well done on getting the identification – you’d be surprised at how often Google Image comes through. The cryptic clues didn’t used to be necessary, but the contributors to Zygoma have become way too good at identifying things. There was a time it would take 30+ guesses before the FMO was identified, now someone has usually worked it out within an hour of posting! Too damned good…

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