Friday mystery object #164 answer

On Friday I gave you this object to identify:

It was a bit of a tricky one, since a few vertebrae aren’t a huge amount to go on. However, the large size helps narrow it down, as do the distinctively long neural spines.

As Ric Morris and henstridgesj spotted, the vertebrae are very compressed, not providing much scope for movement, suggesting an animal that relies on a rigid backbone for support and transferring large forces. This is not something you see in whales (at least not after the cervical and first few thoracic vertebrae), since water supports their weight and they maintain some flexibility in their spine for changing their orientation in the water when swimming. That leaves us with very few terrestrial mammals big enough to have vertebrae of this size – particularly considering that these vertebrae are from a juvenile animal.

The neural spines are long, but not laterally flattened. This suggests that they are not from a large Buffalo, Hippopotamus or Rhinoceros, since all of these animals have their neural spines orientated as a dorsal blade. The only animal of the right size that has dorso-ventrally flattened neural spines in the mid-thoracic region (that I’m aware of) is the  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #163 answer

On Friday I gave you this object from the collections of the Horniman Museum to identify:

The specimen had lost its label at some point in the past, so I had to identify it myself and was hoping to get your opinion on what it might be.

When I first saw it I noticed an odd scar running diagonally across the top of the cranium, which made me wonder if it was some kind of marine bird with an odd salt glad. Then I realised that the scar indicated something else entirely, which gave me the clue I needed to make the identification.

It seems that most of you also noticed the scar and came to similar conclusions, so  23thorns, cackhandedkate, Ric Morris, Jake and Steven D. Garber all recognised it as a woodpecker of some sort and given the length of the skull rachel and henstridgesj arrived at the same conclusion about species as I did, which is the  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #163

I have another bird skull for you to identify this week – sorry if all the bird skulls are getting repetitive, but that’s what I’ve been working on!

This specimen had no identification and had me stumped for a little while, but I now think I’ve worked out what it might be and I’d appreciate your input to see if you agree:

As usual, you can put comments, questions and suggestions below and I’ll do my best to respond. Enjoy!

Friday mystery object #161 answer

On Friday I gave you this bird skull to identify:

Most of you managed to identify it pretty easily – Robin suggested something in the right family, while Ric Morris, henstridgesj, Matthew King and Jake all managed to work it out to species. This is the skull of a  Continue reading

Church of England upset by possibility of equal marriage

Once again it seems that the Church is getting its collective knickers in a twist over ‘gay marriage’ or equal marriage as I prefer to think of it.

The Coalition for Marriage has a consultation out at the moment, which is heavily biased towards unequal marriage, but which does provide a way of feeding back to government a more equal view. Here’s what I said

Marriage is a contract between two people, providing legal acknowledgement of their partnership. It is also a social declaration of partnership and a celebration of love. This contract, declaration and celebration should be available to any couple, regardless of their sexuality.

Marriage is a legally secular activity and it is inappropriate for religious groups with a homophobic agenda to interfere with updates in the law that would bring equality to marriage legislation.

To be honest I hope that this legislation is ‘one of the most serious threats to Church in 500 years’, since any institution that is unwilling to support equality doesn’t deserve to be supported itself. The CofE needs to grow up and realise that we no longer live in a world governed by superstition and indoctrination. If they want to be a useful part of the modern world they need to realise that change is inevitable and when the change leads to greater equality it is change for the better.

Normally they’re a bit more progressive than their Catholic congeners, so let’s see if they have a change of heart on the issue.

Rhinos at risk

I know I’ve discussed the situation regarding rhino horn before, but I recently had an article published in NatSCA News that goes into a bit more detail about the thefts of rhino horn from collections in Europe, the current status of rhino populations in the wild and the huge increase in levels of poaching. I thought it might be useful to share the article a bit more widely by making it available here: The Horns of a Dilemma: The Impact of the Illicit Trade in Rhino Horn.

rhino-dehorned via


Normally NatSCA News articles are published online a year or so after they are published in hard copy, but the article I wrote will be out of date by then and I will have to spend the next year or so getting annoyed by newspaper articles talking about the market for horn as an aphrodisiac (which is nonsense), without being able to easily share the results of my research into the subject.

One element of my research has been a map that shows the places in Europe from which rhino horn has been stolen in the last 18 months or so (I will keep updating it):

The situation for rhinos is bad and it’s getting worse.