Friday mystery object #293

This week I have the first of what I hope will be many mystery objects from my new job as zoology curator at the National Museum of Ireland:


I haven’t quite got myself a proper photographic set up yet, but I hope this photo of an unidentified skull in the collection will be good enough for you to be able to help me work out what species it belongs to.

As usual you can leave your thoughts, questions and suggestions in the comments section below. Have fun!

26 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #293

  1. So clearly the response to a questioniforme, but I’ll be damned if I know which specific one. Ah well, 1 out of 140?

    Speaking of which, any luck on last time’s one? Do we have a species identification yet?

  2. Hi Paolo is it a species of swan? Might be a bit small for a swan but that’s what sprung to mind when I looked at the image. Cheers Nick

  3. Based on proportions and size I am going to guess it is neither a sleep-causer nor one of those thingies Hume spoke about that cause us to re-examine our paradigms (not even one of he white examples).

    Alas I am not good enough at the technical details to tell which of the remaining smaller members of this group this belongs to, so I will wait for brighter minds than mine to clue me in.

    To be fair, it looks smaller than most of those too.

    • Size, as Lee Post suggests, seems to be against any but the smallest anseriforms. But which of them it might be (given that duck v goose does not seem to be cladistically supported as a distinction) will probably depend upon very specific distinctions: size, shape and position of the nostrils; length of bill compared to size of skull. Etc.

      I am sure I will be proven wrong in all particulars but I’ll spout my opinions anyway. 😉

  4. I’m no expert, but this one seems idiosyncratic enough to be identifiable based on proportions and a couple assumptions about collection. Is hazards a guess that there’s a bizarre crustacean named after this animal, and that this animal is likewise named after that same crustacean. Our something from this widespread genus.

    • Upon further consideration, I’m committing to a burnt white. This specimen looks to be in a pretty gruesome and greasy state though. You should chuck it in some acetone to draw the fats out of it.

  5. At what looks like just over 8 CM – You might have a hard time squeezing a swan or most geese into something that small. This is the size of goldeneye or a harlequin duck . Neither of those match but check out a Brant . (Branta bernicla) Right size, right features. Very close to the right shape .

  6. Long time since I’ve been here. This is certainly a goose, and small one with a a round head and a very short bill. To me Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis) seems closest. The Brent goose has a relatively longer bill, and a flatter cranium

    • Both observations -bill length and cranium roundness are different than on the brant I have . I don’t have a barnacle goose to compare to but I agree that those differences are enough to eliminate the Brant .

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