Friday mystery object #288

This week I have a mystery skeleton that emerged from the collections of the Grant Museum of Zoology recently and required identification:


Apologies for the slightly rubbish photographs, but I’ve taken pics of the bits I found most useful in making my identification.

Any thoughts on what species this specimen represents? You can put your questions, thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below. Have fun with it!

46 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #288

  1. then i thought i counted an odd (as in different, not as the opposite of even) number of cervical vertebrae- bradypodidae, but alas not either.

  2. Mammal. (If nothing else, the clear distinction between thoracics, with ribs, and lumbars, without, implies the presence of a diaphragm.)
    Unusually large tail for a modern mammal. Posterior caudal vertebrae look … flattened? So maybe in life it ad a broad tail suitable for swimming with?
    (Re: Joe Vans: yeah, looks like a lot of cervicals. My guess is that some ribs are missing and we are mistaking the first thoracic as a cervical.)
    (Re: Palfreyman: Agreed: (?)?! )

    • Had the arms (short for forelimbs) been shorter with heftier claws I would have been thinking pangolin or similar insectivore since there seems such a clear distinction between legs and arms and pangolins and anteaters often use hind limbs only so as to keep their forelimbs for tearing open mounds. But…

      The bloody feet are so large that they just cry out for an explanation as a webbed, aquatic adaptation. And then that hefty tail – otters don’t have anything similar do they?

      I have to confess to being baffled and suspecting this is a chimera – two or three skeletons mounted as one. It probably isn’t, but heck, it seems the skeletal version of the first platypus Europeans saw…

  3. OK. It’s early days yet but I am, absent any real analysis, going with my gestalt notion: this is one of those species whose clade name (not genus, there are three or four genera) sounds like a bloke with a plan. Basically, I am suggesting it may well have a prehensile tail. Also that it is, besides being incomplete and possibly a mutant, probably badly mounted.

  4. Palfreyman–
    Your “bloke with a plan” is too cryptic for me, but I, too, when I first looked at it thought of a clade with three or four genera (though all lumped into one in earlier 20th c. sources), some members of which have prehensile tails… But (i) the hind feet look a bit too aquatic and (ii) I may be wrong, but I think the caudal vertebrae of critters with prehensile tails have more in the way of transverse processes: these look wrong to me for that. (But I’m far from certain.)
    And the weird thing on the scapula in the last photo… Could it be a right clavicle, followed by the top of a sternum (the triangular bit), followed by a left clavicle that has come unglued at its outer end?

    • I agree that the hind foot looks too aquatic, but am hoping it can be explained by the fact that these chappies are plantigrade even though I don’t see a heel that would confirm it. I suppose I am grasping at straws.

      I like your explanation for the scapular “process” so absent any further ideas, in the spirit of Occam’s Razor, I concur.

  5. Having searched the web for other images, I’m leaning more and more to Henstridge’s suggestion of B in English, C in Latin.
    (With, maybe, Chimaera as my second choice!)

    • Having looked some images myself I conclude, a touch gloomily, that henstridgesj and you are probably correct. Of course, if we had the skull it would have been an easy id. But your idea of a double, dangling clavicle is almost certainly correct: the B and C (if I’ve interpreted you two correctly) has clavicles like that, joined to the scapula at just about that point.

  6. I have, given Paolo’s clues, looked up some more skeletons and it seems that Isaac Krone is right. Now can someone explain to me why (pardon the French) “shy-shit” has orange teeth?

  7. Bente–
    Big tail and hind legs bigger than fore are consistent with kangaroo/wallaby, but toes on hind foot are wrong.

  8. Palfreyman and Paolo–

    Scapular PROCESS. I think B-and-C has a weird scapular process in about that position, but the bottom photo seems to have a multi-jointed extension to the end of that process: it’s the extension I thought might be clavicle-manubrium(*)-clavicle.

    (*) Is that the correct word for the top of the sternum?

  9. Sorry, I’m being VERY slow. But since Paolo says he has rejected B-and-C, I’m now going with Isaac Krone’s suggestion (and I had forgotten the generic name of his beastie and so didn’t get his cryptic hint).
    And… this helps with the scapular process! The place where I thought a short process was jointed to the right clavicle does look like continuous bone in the photo, so… On this interpretation, the part I thought was a right clavicle really IS part of a (weird, ?(!)?!) process. There’s still something attached to the end of it, though.

    • Well, even though we were both wrong, multiple times, it’s probably a good thing we didn’t appreciate Isaac’s clues immediately. It allowed for some free form ‘jazz’ thinking about morphology and taxonomy, which is always fun. Otherwise this thread would just have ended after Isaac’s post and I would never have seen the slightly bizarre pelvic girdle of the BnC or tried to imagine a pangolin that might look like that.

      So it’s all good.

  10. how about a different confusing looking feature? the hind legs look oddly bent and the pelvic girdle seems very reduced or just hidden from the camera angle.
    btw: it’s not a silky anteater.

  11. I would say I know this guy,..
    I find skulls in river sides all over the place here (Uruguay), but it looks too large for one of these….

    • They get pretty big! We have an even bigger one that I used to check my identification against. Most of the ones I’ve seen in collections have been smaller, but they were trapped in the UK during an intensive cull, so probably had little chance to get bigger.

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