Friday mystery object #173 answer


On Friday I gave you this odd-looking piece of bone to identify:

It’s something I tentatively identified a couple of weeks ago and thought you might be able to add your ideas, to make sure I wasn’t missing something. Jake was quick off the mark in suggesting it was the ear bone of a Whale, which is what I thought when I first saw it. This fitted with the large size and high density of the bone, but on closer inspection it doesn’t quite match any of the Whales.

There were a few other ideas, but none that really matched the specimen, except for a suggestion from henstridgesj that it may come from a member of the Trichechidae, which agreed with my identification of Manatee Trichechus sp. Linnaeus, 1758.

The best comparison I could find for the specimen was this CT scan from a paper by Chapla et al., 2007:

So, the specimen looks to be composed of the periotic bone caudal lobe (pbc), periotic bone rostral lobe (pbr) and tympanic bone (tb) of a Manatee.

These large, herbivorous, aquatic mammals are distributed around the west coast of Africa and the east coast of North and South America. They live in shallow marine and freshwater habitats and have probably contributed to mermaid legends over the years, given their almost arm-like front flippers that allow them to walk along the sea or river bed:

Funky critters!

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