Friday mystery object #449 answer

Last week I gave you this fairly distinctive mystery object to identify:

It’s a vertebra, it’s big and it’s very long. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that made it a fairly easy mystery to solve and most people correctly identified the species, although James Bryant went one better and recognised this as the sixth cervical vertebra of a Giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis Linnaeus, 1758. James also went on to share an interesting paper comparing the cervical vertebrae of the Giraffe and its closest living relative, the Okapi.

I found this specimen quite interesting beyond the extreme elongation, as it demonstrates quite a lot of asymmetry, which is a little unusual for vertebrae:

My guess is that this reflects a degree of “handedness” when fighting – and if you’re not familiar with what that looks like, you can see what I’m talking about here:

As it turns out, a preference for a particular side when fighting in Giraffes has been observed and was reported in a paper published by Granweiler et al. in 2021, so this asymmetry may indeed have a functional cause (perhaps testing this could be a nice student research project for someone?)

This ability of collections to inspire and help answer new questions, that help us better understand our natural world, is a huge part of why I love working in museums. It’s also why I enjoy sharing some of these objects with you here, so I get a chance to hear your thoughts – it means I learn something new every time. Thanks!

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