Friday mystery object #295

For many of you, last week’s mystery object answer was a little disappointing, since I was unable to pin down what the specimen was. Normally with birds it’s not so difficult, because of useful resources like, but the fact is that some bird groups are still quite poorly represented in collections and finding comparative material is difficult, especially online.

The most frustrating thing about last week’s object is that it did once have a label, but at some point in the past it was lost, so the only information with the specimen now is this:


However, this label does offer a glimmer of hope, since it identifies the specimen as being from a particular collection and that can often mean there will be more information somewhere.

As it turns out, this specimen is one of several that were purchased in 1867 from an auction of the collections of Dutch anatomist Theodoor Gerard van Lidth de Jeude. This is helpful because auction catalogues can contain information like the species names of the specimens being sold. It is particularly helpful when you have the original catalogue with annotations about the specimens bought by your institution.

Fortunately, at the Dead Zoo we have the auction catalogues. Unfortunately we bought quite a lot of stuff, so working out which of the specimens our mystery object represents is still quite a lot of work.

However, if other specimens from the auction have their names and numbers, it should be easier to narrow down the ones that lost their labels. It also can also help to have an identification of the specimen to track back to the catalogue, which is why I was keen to get your thoughts last time and why this week’s mystery object is from the same collection.

So can you help me work out what species this skull belonged to?


No need for cryptic clues, but if you want to show off your taxonomic prowess you could always offer the 1860’s scientific name or the name of what you think it is in Dutch.

I hope you have fun with this one!

14 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #295

    • Almost definitely one of them parrotty things. Some thoughts:

      Thanks to Jake’s Bones, I know an African Grey has a skull that’s about 6.5 cm long. This one is only 4 cm long. So more along the size of a Bronze Wing.


      The skull seems, in proportion, to be longer than the skulls of most parrots, and from what little I have seen, the skulls of most species seem to get proportionally shorter, or rounder, the smaller the species.

      So for now, I confess to being stalled…

        • Finally, I suspect the bottom view may be the most revealing (Paolo may have thought the same since he doesn’t usually include these):

          From what little I have seen the psittaciformes have quite distinctive palates; and
          Usually have a distinctive thingy (you know – the hole through which the spinal cord emerges) mainly kind of keyhole of dumbbell shaped. The even coloration on this one doesn’t make it clear but, it doesn’t seem to match that, though.

          On size alone I am eliminating the two “side clades” (the Kiwi parrots and the other chappies). But that just leaves us smack bang in the middle of the most speciose clade of these these fellers.

          So I am still pretty stumped.

  1. I concur with you palfrey, my african grey is 7cm long and the proportion of mandible length to thickness is closer to 1 than this specimen.

  2. Actually not relevant to this week’s skull, but might help towards the previous specimen: Following the link to the Van Lidth de Jeude page, it’s interesting to note that the the fourth thumbnail image of his birds is a Notharcus(?) puffbird (Bucconidae). Could be worth checking in the catalogue?

      • Yes!!!

        I looked at some images of these and, gestalt impression, close. I suspect their bills, in general, may be shorter and narrower than last fortnight’s specimen but, we live in hope.

  3. pretty sure puffbirds flat billed for insects and small vertebrates. it definitely has the gestalt of a psittacine, but i’d hate to think we’ve been duped again like we were with the “corvid.” too big and stocky for a conure. some dutch-east indies parrot?

    a side note, i used google to translate van lidth’s page, it sounded like a sad story of death and debt that lead to his collection being parted out and sold to the highest bidder. at least i’m sure he’d be happy it is still being used.

  4. The bill length and colour and overall size eliminates most of the parrots.. I’m suspecting a Lory (Eos sp. ) Or perhaps a Lorikeet such as Neopsittacus sp. Not much comparative material to look at though.

      • Seem to be mostly dark bills in Chalopsitta (I’m assuming of course, that the colour of this beak has not faded dramatically!)

        • I am assuming nothing regarding the colouring particularly given that the overall colour seems age/varnish related and the second hole in the base of the skull seems to be a result of accident damage (or poorly thought through mounting).

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