Last week I gave you this mystery object supplied by Dr David Hone:
This is the premaxilla of a fish, but that doesn’t narrow things down much, since there are 28,000 species of bony fish, leaving a huge range of possibilities.
There were several suggestions of Wolf Fish, which is what I originally thought it was myself, but that’s not what it is. Then the suggestions of various Wrasse species started cropping up – which is a lot more likely.
My first look at Wrasse teeth came when I tried to identify the fish used in the Horniman’s Merman:
There are a lot of Wrasse, over 600 species in fact, so it can be hard to narrow down the species, especially when few comparative specimens are available.
One very helpful osteology resource for identifying fish from their bony bits is Osteobase which lets you pick a bone and start making comparisons. It’s worth keeping in mind that you need to really explore the taxonomic tree on the left of the page to get a real appreciation of how useful it is – so for example, after selecting the premaxilla, if you look at the Perciformes (the Order containing the Wrasse) you see a huge range of premaxilla specimens that help narrow down the bone you’re trying to identify.
This clearly shows that the Labridae is definitely the right family for the mystery object and the Mexican Hogfish Bodianus diplotaenia (Gill, 1862) is a very close match.
So congratulations to Richard Lawrence who I think has it right, especially since the specimen was found within the range of this species. I hope you all enjoyed the challenge!