Friday mystery object #271

This week I have a mystery object for you from the Grant Museum of Zoology that’s either a bit too easy, or a bit mean:


If you’re not a fully paid-up bonegeek, you might like to have a bit of an additional clue; if so, click here.

Please keep your answers in the comments section cryptic, so everyone gets a chance to have a go at working it out without spoilers. Have fun!

13 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #271

  1. So I am not a fully paid up bone geek and therefore looked at the other clue, which helped (if it did – my guesses will tell you).

    Here are my thoughts (SPOILER ALERT) based on both this and the other pics.

    No teeth. Hmmmm…
    Heavily armoured skull.

    Both of these simple ideas point to either spanning turtle style chelonians (really Ravi?) or insectivorous, specifically eaters of termites and maybe ants, mammals.

    Given that snapping turtles tend to have rather more robust jaws I am going to rule them out, and I didn’t even need to us the new term I discovered from last fortnight, auditory bullae, to tell that.

    With the skull’s length, or lack of, we can presumably exclude the specialist mega-tongued anteaters, as well as the aardvarks.

    Which leaves us, particularly given the heavy skull, with one group from the Americas.

    Certainly all the other cryptic clues seem to be pointing in that direction.

    So as a complete non sequitur, let me tell you about someone who also has/had an Italian name: Piero Manzoni.

    A proto conceptual artist, from the 1950s, he had a retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery in the late 1990s, which I had the privilege of visiting.

    Of his works the most represented was his “Achromes”, paintings, or framed pieces with no colour or figurative shapes on them.

    There were also some of his wilder fancies, including his notorious “Merda d’Artista” tins (yes, literally he had sealed his shit in cans and labelled them).

    In between these two were many of his “Linea” series: he would hand draw a line on a scroll of paper, and then seal it in a container he’d designed, labelling it with the date and the length of the line.

    Some of them were a few hundred metres long, and rolled up into wonderful, small, buff coloured cardboard tubes with handwritten labels of such quality, along with the glossy tubes, they seemed to evoke the mid/late 19th century when everything was crafted, even the utilitarian stuff.

    His longer lines, however, could not be contained in cardboard tubes, so he had devised and crafted other, larger, containers for them.

    The centrepiece of the exhibition was something that looked liked a cubical stool. One of the Linea series, with the cover, the stool, made of bronze, but covered with overlapping, square, bronze scales.

    It looked warm to the touch. It wasn’t, but I got told off for touching it the first time so didn’t try again.

    Importantly, unless you break the seal on one of these, you do not know if Manzoni genuinely drew the line or had just presented you with a sealed emptiness.

    In any case (and yes this is tl;dr), this animal, and the clues, makes me think of one group only (oh alright then, two), and they partly, and literally, relate to me anecdote….

  2. We’re pretty sure this one takes us out of the frying pan and into some different lingo. Too cryptic? I need to practice my scales but get back to you when I have a chance. (Calleri & Jones)

  3. Ok, my first thought for a (not very) cryptic reply was “Is it a pinecone?” … Looks as if others have had the same thought, encrypted variously.
    Now, if you want the SPECIES…

    • I’m not a pinecone, I just play one on tv. Rather I like to think of myself as convergent evolution with an armadillo or pill bug (Armadillidiidae).

      • As an aside, not immediately relevant to identification… Is there a functional explanation (a.k.a just so story) about that prong of bone beside the symphysis? Why should an animal whose dietary preferences led it to abandon its teeth want to change its evolutionary mind and evolve a pseudo-canine on its slender dentary? (And, Joe– “Armadillidiidae” is one of my favorite bits of nomenclature, perfecty descriptive!)

  4. Came across something relevant in a library book I have out for recreational reading: Rose and Archibald, ads, “The Rise of Placental Mammals” (Johns Hopkins U.P., 2005). Rose et al., in the “X&P” chapter, have a picture of the skull of an animal of this order, in ventral view. Comparing it to the additional hint you posted… DEFINITELY a pinecone. But enough detail differences that I think yours is not (I’m pretty much abandoning the effort to be cryptic, but it IS Thursday) the “M. tricuspis” they show: so, one of the other six species?

    As for the “mandibular prong”: they don’t speculate about its possible function, but in their “characterization” of the order, p. 112, includes “the mandible bears a pair of bony, anterolaterally directed, prongs on the outside of the symphysis on each side,” adding that this feature is “incipient” in an Eocene fossil from Messel, but better developed in all later species. So I suppose a really dedicated bone geek would have seen it and immediately said “Aah: consistent spotting feature of the lower jaws of pinecones!”

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