Friday mystery object #243 answer

Last week I gave you this nightmarish looking mystery object to identify:


There were lots of great suggestions about what it might be, with most of you in the right area of the animal kingdom with a legless critter in mind. In particular a fairly primitive type, with aglyphous or ‘groove-less’ teeth (as opposed to snakes characterised by having opsithoglyphous or ‘backward grooved’, proteroglyphous or ‘forward grooved’ and solenglyphous or ‘pipe grooved’ teeth).

There were several suggestions of Boa constrictor – specifically the right maxilla (upper jaw), but they have a straighter top to the maxilla and a differently shaped process that connects with the frontal and ectopterygoid bones (check out Udo Savalli’s snake skull anatomy page to see what those terms mean).

Anaconda was also suggested, but the anterior (front) part of  the maxilla is not squared off enough.

Nicola Newton, rachel and Alex Kleine all suggested Python, which is what I think it is. I’m not certain of the species, but it’s definitely a big one – I’m leaning towards the Reticulated Python Python reticulatus (Schneider, 1801).

Just to give you a better idea of which bone it is, here it is compared to the skull of another large Python skull from the Horniman’s collection:


and to give a better sense of scale, here it is with my (fairly large) hand for comparison:


My very rough estimate of the length of the animal, based on other skeletal material I’ve seen, is around 5m – that’s one snake I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of!

Friday mystery object #241 answer

Last Friday I gave you this object, that I’ve been working on, to identify:


Ric Morris was straight in with the nicely disguised correct answer of occipital bone viewed from the basal aspect, correctly suggesting something bovine as the source.


This is the kind of object that you often come across from archaeological sites, where material may have been dug up from a butchery site, kitchen midden or similar assemblage.

Fragmentary bits can be quite hard to identify compared to complete skulls, but when you get a fairly complete chunk like this it makes things a bit more straightforward. In particular the hole of the foramen magnum and bordering occipital condyles provide a clear indication of where in the body it comes from. The shape and size of the condyles also helps narrow down the species.

Expect some more burnt and broken bits of bone in future mystery objects!

Friday mystery object #235

This week I don’t really have a mystery object, I have a mystery sound for you to identify from the British Library Sound Archive via the Curator of  Wildlife Sounds, Cheryl Tipp.

Any idea what this is?

Patches is listening carefully

Patches is listening carefully

As usual you can put your thoughts in the comments section below. Have fun!

Friday mystery object #232 answer

Last Friday I gave you this nice robust skull to identify:


There was a healthy discussion about possible identifications, with the importance of scale mentioned more than once (by Jake, palaeosam, Lena and Robin Birrrdegg). Not only is this a robust skull, it’s also quite large, ruling out the British carnivores – and it clearly is a carnivore judging by the canines and the well-defined sagittal crest.

The lack of cutting and puncturing premolars and molars means that cats, dogs, hyaenas and other very carnivorous large carnivores can be ruled out, narrowing down the likely options in the right size range to the bears, as recognised by palaeosam, Ric Morris, Robin Birrrdegg, Will Viscardi, cromercrox, cackhandedkate, Lena, Daniel Calleri, henstridgesj and Carlos.

The species is a bit more difficult to work out, but the big sagittal crest and fused sutures suggests that this is not an juvenile bear, meaning it’s too small for a bear of the Brown  or Polar variety. That still leaves quite a range of other possible bears, but the pronounced forehead and long square muzzle rules out the Giant Panda, Sun Bear, Spectacled Bear and Asiatic Black Bear, while the big robust incisors rule out the Sloth Bear. That leaves the American Black Bear Ursus americanus Pallas, 1780.

Ursus americanus by Mike Bender/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008

Ursus americanus by Mike Bender/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008

So well done to cromercrox, Carlos and Robin Birdeggg who all got the species correct!

Bonus mystery object

I usually offer up a mystery object on Friday, but here’ a bonus object that landed on my desk this morning.


Apparently it was found in a horsefield in Kent, I have narrowed down the likely species of the animal that ‘donated’ the bone to a couple of options, but thought you might like to have a go as well, before the specimen is handed over to our Anthropologists to inspect the engraved designs.

As usual can can leave your comments below. Have fun!

Friday mystery object #225 answer

Last Friday I gave you this felid skull to identify:


As with the other cats over the last few weeks, it’s been difficult to find really clear diagnostic features.

The size helps narrow down the possibilities and the lack of divided auditory bullae rules out some of the species of Lynx, as does the presence of the small first premolar.

However, beyond that there isn’t much to really differentiate this cat from other species, apart from general features of relative proportion (height vs width vs length) and perhaps the angle of the rear part of the sagittal crest (which will probably vary between individuals).

Nonetheless, henstridgesj managed to correctly identify this as an Ocelot Leopardus pardalis (Linnaeus, 1758), one of the largest of the small cats in South America.

Ocelot, 2003 from US Fish & Wildlife Service, Image Archive

My challenge is going to be find a way to pull together the variety of cat skulls we’ve had for the last few weeks, to help make cat skulls a little easier to identify in the future – if that’s even possible. No pressure…

Friday mystery object #223

I hope you’re not all fed up with cats yet, because here’s another:


I have concerns about the identification attached to this one, so let’s see if your thoughts agree with what I have written on the label.

As always, you can put your thoughts below and they will be very welcome!