This week I have a mystery object for you that I expect you will find simultaneously easy and difficult:
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, I expect you’ll be able to work out what this bone is quite easily – however, you may struggle a bit more to work out which species it came from.
Cryptic answers are encouraged as always – but mainly have some fun with this one!
This week it’s back to bones. I’ve had a couple of very helpful work experience students photographing some specimens from the Dead Zoo comparative osteology collection and here’s a distinctive bone for you to identify. The Order should be easy, the Family simple enough, but the Genus and Species may prove more difficult:
So if you think you know what this is please put your suggestions in the comments below. Have fun!
Last week I gave you a final mystery object from the Grant Museum of Zoology to help me identify:
Part of the reason for that was because I knew I’d be starting my new job in Dublin where there is a great collection of comparative bird osteology that I thought I’d get a chance to look at in time to write this post.
Alas, I’ve had a whirlwind first week at Dublin’s Dead Zoo and although I’ve managed to take a look at a few sterna, I’ve not had much time to really think about them or consider the identification. I’ve also had limited opportunity to follow up on everyone’s very useful suggestions, although I have tried to use them as a guide to narrow down my perusal of the comparative collections.
However, I did get a chance to take some quick snaps of a range of bird sterna with my phone, so I’m going to provide you with a veritable feast of breast bones to compare the mystery specimen against:
Lesser Black-backed Gull
You can click on each image to see a large version – hopefully this will prove useful for future identifications!
None of them quite match the combination of having perforations near the straight and truncated bottom of the mystery specimen, which sports a broad triangular flattening of the lower portion of the carina or keel. This may be a feature of the particular individual, or it might be diagnostic – herein lie the problem with using strongly functional features for identification, as a juvenile or zoo specimen may have differences due to developmental progress of lack of use of a feature. To illustrate, this keel from a Griffon Vulture from the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland shows a significant asymmetry (although it’s hard to see the deformation in the image due to the shadow – I’ll see if I can get a better image):
Griffon Vulture sternum
It’s also worth noting that the Grant specimen has had the top of the sternum cut off, so the overall shape is a little misleading. From comparing the sterna of a variety of bird groups I’m in agreement with the emerging group consensus that this is probably from a pretty large bird of prey.
Thanks for your input on this – I will check some more next week when I have a zooarchaeologist looking at the comparative bird collection and I’ll get the chance to dig out some more material.
Last week I gave you this mystery object to identify, found on a beach in Ireland:
It led to a lot of great cryptic comments relating to marine birds and sternum keels, but Lena was the first to comment and was spot on with the species (or at least as far as I can tell!)
Bird sterna are quite distinctive, with overall shape giving an indicator of mode of life. Long narrow but well-developed keels like this tend to be seen in marine birds that use their wings to fly underwater. The shape of the bottom and sides of the sternum tend to be quite specific to particular genera and species, making sterna pretty good for identification.
Of course that depends on having good comparative material and I was delighted to find John Rochester’s very helpful Flickr page, that has a comparison of British Auks (in this case we’re talking about the geographical British Isles rather than the sociopolitical concept of Britain).
If you take a look at those images you’ll notice that one fits the shape very well indeed – the Guillemot or Common Murre Uria aalge (Pontoppidan, 1763).
Guillemot with its meat and feathers on. Image by Dick Daniels, 2011
So that’s the identification I gave to Emer, Ronan, Rory and Paddy who found it on their hols!
Every summer museums get an influx of objects discovered on beaches by holidaymakers. This week’s mystery object is from a beach in Kerry, Ireland, found by Emer, Ronan, Rory and Paddy:
Any idea what this is and what it comes from?
You can leave your questions, thoughts and suggestions in the comments box below. Have fun!
Last week I gave you this unassuming bit of bone, that I found with no identification in the Grant Museum of Zoology stores:
Daniel Jones and Daniel Calleri identified the element as a radius, but beyond that there was a general feeling that identification of species was a bit on the tricky side. Palfreyman1414 pointed out that it’s something approximately human sized, with Lena ruling out an ungulate, suggesting that it could be from a carnivore or possibly a marsupial.
I must admit that my mind immediately went to carnivores and I initially thought it could be from a Black Bear, since it’s fairly robust and about the right length. However, after checking the ever helpful Adams & Crabtree book I realised that bears are even more chunky than this.
It didn’t look right for a dog since they are straighter, have a flatter profile and a narrower distal end. However, it did look right for a big cat and I’m fairly certain that it’s from a Leopard Panther pardus (Linnaeus, 1758). If you want to compare a Leopard with a Dog radius you can see them compared in this paper, along with a good description of the bones of the Leopard forearm.
A bit of a tricky challenge – so next time I may try to do something a bit more distinctive!
This week I have an unidentified postcranial element for you to identify, which I came across in the Grant Museum of Zoology stores this week:
Any idea what it is and, more importantly, what it’s from?
You can leave your comments, questions and suggestions in the comments section below. Have fun!