Friday mystery object #250

This week I have a mystery object for you that had me stumped for a little while recently, after it didn’t match the comparative material I had to hand. I managed to work out what it is, but I thought that it might make for a fun challenge as the 250th Friday mystery object:


Any idea what this is and what species it comes from?

As usual you can leave your (preferably cryptic) observations, questions and suggestions in the comments section below. Have fun!

Friday mystery object #248

This week I have another perplexing mystery object for you, that I’ve found harder to identify than expected:

click to embiggen

I’ve compared it to several specimens in a similar size range and it hasn’t matched any of them well enough to make a confident attempt at identification. Whatever  it is, I don’t have a skeleton of anything comparable in the stores at the Horniman, and it’s a chunky critter with much more robust hind limbs than a Eurasian Badger Meles meles.

Any suggestions on what this might be from would be greatly appreciated!

Friday mystery object #246 answer

Last week I gave you this mystery skull from the stunning Galerie d’anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie in Paris:


I was struck by the cat-like dentition and general shape, but as many of you worked out, that’s no cat.

It is in fact a specimen of a Fossa Cryptoprocta ferox Bennett, 1833, as correctly identified by Charne, Manabu Sakamoto, Nigel Monaghan, SMerjeevski – good skills!

Fossa by Ran Kirlian

Fossa by Ran Kirlian

This carnivore is endemic to Madagascar and is the foremost natural predator of lemurs. They are well adapted to climbing in order to catch their tree-dwelling main course, with rotating ankles a bit like a Margay.

Madagascar is an amazing place for biology. It separated from Africa around 20 million years ago and has had its own unique wildlife evolving there ever since. This means that the familiar cats that fill niches in (relatively) nearby Africa are missing, since they didn’t really exist when Madagascar started drifting off. The Fossa fills that catty niche.

There may be more mystery objects to come from the  Galerie d’anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie, since the whole place blew me away!


Friday mystery object #246

Last weekend I had a fantastic visit to Paris and my wonderful wife gave me the best Valentines Day gift in the world, by taking me to the spectacular Galerie d’anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie.


As you might have guessed, I was in bone heaven and had to be dragged out by security at closing time – but not before taking hundreds of photos of the incredible collections.

So this week’s mystery object comes courtesy of Georges Pouchet, the comparative anatomist who established the Gallery:


Any idea what this might be?

As usual you can put your suggestions, thoughts and questions in the comments box below. I hope you enjoy the challenge!

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 #242

Seasons greetings! Since it’s Boxing Day, I thought it would be appropriate to give you a box of bones from an archaeological dig to have a go at identifying:


Here are a couple of detailed images of some of the bones to help you:


And here is a detail of the non-bony object that’s associated:


You can put your questions, observations and suggestions in the comments box below and maybe we can work out what’s been dug up!