Friday mystery object #188 answer

On Friday I gave you this previously misidentified specimen to have a go at identifying:


It turns out that you did a great job!

Jake and Mieke Roth immediately spotted that the skull belonged to a large turtle of some kind, henstridgesj narrowed it down to a fresh-water turtle and he and Steven D. Garber recognised that despite the large size, it wasn’t from one of the snapping turtles (which is what the original identification mistakenly had it as) and that it was more likely to be from one of the side-necked turtles. However, microecos went one better and managed to get a species identification for the specimen that agreed with the identification that our visiting reptile expert Dr Colin McCarthy who suggested the Yellow-spotted Amazon River Turtle Podocnemis unifilis Troschel, 1848.

 Podocnemis unifilis (Yellow-spotted Amazon River Turtle) by Obsidian Soul

It took a while to track down a good reference that would allow me to make a species level identification for this specimen myself, as there are six different species within the genus Podocnemis and I am not sufficiently familiar with Testudines to know which would best fit the bill, or how much variation to expect between individuals of the same species.  However,  I stumbled across a very helpful study that looks at the crania of the turtles from the Podocnemididae that is available for free download from American Museum of Natural History Research Library.

The internet is a fantastic resource for finding information and as we see here, crowd-sourcing can provide some really good quality results (thanks everyone!). I must say that working alongside someone with Colin’s expertise for just a day during our Bioblitz collections review at the Horniman has not only provided answers to questions about the collection, it has also hugely increased my knowledge and confidence when it comes to identifying ‘reptiles’. There is nothing quite like working alongside a more experienced curator to immerse oneself in a subject and begin to identify the skills needed to understand a group, so a big thanks to Colin!

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