Last Friday I gave you this object to identify:
It already had an identification of sorts on a label, but I didn’t believe it for a moment:
I’m pleased to say that neither did any of you and Jake got the ball rolling by identifying it as a sternum rather than a tail.
This didn’t necessarily make the identification much easier, since different sterna shapes are not really all that familiar for many of us and there is relatively little comparative material available.
Despite this, there were some good attempts, ranging from Polar Bear to Horse (via the mysterious clue “Losing voice we hear?” by Flick Baker, which for some reason I struggled to figure out… to my shame I have never been any good at cryptic crosswords).
I had a bit of an advantage in identifying this object, because I had some insider curatorial information. The metal rods sticking out of the specimen make it clear that it has been mounted in a somewhat unusual way, characteristic of some laid-out skeletons that we acquired from King’s College in 1986 and the Lab number (added by our Conservation team when they treated it) was in the same range as other King’s College specimens.
One such specimen included this Tapir, which as you may notice, is lacking its sternum:
This inspired me to take a look at some Tapir sterna, and I was pleased to find that they matched this mystery object very well indeed – so it looks like Flick was pretty close with her perissodactyltastic suggestion.
Malayan Tapir at the San Diego Zoo, by Sepht, 2006.
I have talked about Tapirs before, so I won’t bore you with more about them right now, except to issue a warning: Tapirs may look comedic and a bit harmless, but they are perfectly capable of biting a human arm clean off. So it’s probably safest to avoid messing with Tapirs, unless they’re in a museum.