On Friday I gave you this anthropological mystery object to identify:
I asked you what the teeth might have belonged to and where in the world might this necklace be from.
It’s always a bit tricky to identify worked material as it will often be different from what you’d see or expect in the wild state and you lose the context of the rest of the specimen. Nonetheless, these teeth are quite distinctive to a particular group of animals.
Barbara Powell, 23thorns and Robin got the right general area with suggestions of Islands in the South Pacific, in particular New Guinea. 23thorns also nailed the animal group with his suggestion of Continue reading →
A big list of you (Mieke Roth, Jake, mcarnall, Anthony wilkes, 23thorns, Cam Weir, henstridgesj, Rhea, leigh and Robin) managed to work out what this specimen was from and there were some really interesting explanations about how you came to your conclusions in response to Steven D. Garber’s comment:
Now, I’d like it even more if people explained why this skull looks the way it does.
This is a really interesting thing to consider, as it underlies the process of recognition and identification. As a biologist I might start by saying that the lacrimal foramina is on the edge of the orbit (as henstridgesj pointed out) which is indicative of a marsupial and that the dentition is indicative of a carnivorous mammal that isn’t a member of the placental Carnivora as it lacks carnassials, plus the dental formula appears to be ‘primitive’ from the photo ?.1.3.4/?.1.2.4 which narrows down the possibilities to just a few marsupial carnivores, and given the scale of the skull there is just one that fits the bill.
However, if I’m honest I’d say that the overall shape and robust structure of this specimen is very similar to specimens I’ve seen before belonging to the Continue reading →
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.
Once again I have a genuine mystery object for you to identify this Friday. I have been going through some of the material from the old King’s College Collection in an effort to identify some material with no data that would be suitable for the Horniman’s handling collection.
I found this bird skull that I think would be ideal – I think I know what it is, but I need to make sure that I’m not mistaken and that it isn’t an important or rare species. I will check the identification myself and I will see if you all come to the same conclusions as me about what this is:
Please leave your comments and suggestions below and let’s see what we come up with!
On Friday I gave you another skull to identify from a box of unlabelled material dating from 1974:
At first glance it looks quite similar to the skull of a small dog or fox, but the muzzle area seems a bit short, the braincase too small and the teeth aren’t quite right for a canid – in fact the teeth look more like those of a mustelid (as Jake pointed out). However, mustelids tend to have quite broad and blocky skulls and this one seems a bit elongate and gracile.
Clare P made a very good suggestion when she suggested the Asian Palm CivetParadoxurus hermaphroditus, although this animal is somewhat smaller than the species that this specimen came from. Size aside, the dentition matches pretty well (if you can work out which tooth sockets belong to each tooth):
So it looks like this is the skull of a viverrid. There are still lots of candidates out there and location could help narrow down possible species, but without any labels it can be hard to work out locality information. However, last week’s object was from the same collection and it was an African species, suggesting that Africa would be a good place to start looking for a species match.
Jamie Revell did just that when he suggested the Giant Forest Genet Genetta victoriae, which is a viverrid of about the right size from Africa. Although I already thought I knew what the specimen was, I took Jamie’s suggestion very seriously, as I hadn’t considered that particular species and it fit with most of the features of the specimen.
On Friday I gave you this mystery object to identify:
Unfortunately I was unable to respond to comments on Friday, as my laptop had to go in for repairs and my phone has reached the end of its useful life as an internet device after 4 years faithful service. For the answer this week I had to drag out my old laptop, which has meant 2 hours of twiddling thumbs as the machine started up and dealt with various updates…
In some ways it was a good thing that I wasn’t able to comment, since it would have ruined the fun from the outset. Jake was straight in there, wondering if it was really as easy as it looked – and it was. Rachel, Jack Ashby and Barbara Powell also plumped for the right answer, while several others came very close when they went for a greedy relative. This is in fact the skull of a juvenile Continue reading →
I expected you to work out what these came from pretty easily – and you proved me right. In fact, I think this was probably the easiest mystery object so far, given that everyone managed to get a correct identification of Continue reading →
On Friday I gave you a bit of a tricky mystery object in the shape of this partial skull:
I wasn’t expecting anyone to get it without some clues, but I underestimated my talented audience!
Jake spotted that it was a mammal based on the ear morphology and then worked out what kind of animal based on clues from henstridgesj who suggested seal and Julie Doyle, who managed to not only identify the species, but drop this lovely cryptic clue to convey that information:
Not a lot to phocus on, but……. I’m harboring an idea about who it might be. Continue reading →
Jake spotted that this was a marsupial’s skull straight away and many of you suggested Kangaroo using a variety of crafty clues. There was also a well reasoned suggestion of Koala that fell just a little short.
On Friday I gave you this object (from the NHM) to identify:
It was a bit of a tricky one for those of you who haven’t seen the First Time Out exhibition (jackashby and David Godfrey obviously did see it). This fossil skull looks like it belonged to some kind of pig rather than a primate – yes, that’s right, I said primate.
The main feature visible here that indicates that this skull may belong to a primate is the enclosed orbit, which isn’t a particularly strong characteristic since various ungulates also have an enclosed orbit – as I said, it’s a tricky one.
The type of primate is the Koala Lemur Megaladapis edwardsi Forsyth Major, 1894 from Madagascar. It was an arboreal, slow moving, gorilla-sized folivore – with superficial similarities to Koalas (hence the name). It is hypothesised that the extended bony nasal region may have supported a prehensile top lip, that would have been beneficial when foraging for leaves in the trees.
I won’t go into much detail here, because other curators have provided their interpretation for this object as part of the First Time Out project, so I will leave you with a link to that information. However, I would be interested in taking a closer look at the dentition and complete skeleton of one of these animals – I’d like to get a better grip on this apparent convergence on a suid cranial morphology and more gorilla-like body. I wonder what it might have looked like?
I was a bit taken aback by the response to the second anniversary mystery object last Friday. There were a huge number of comments and unfortunately I was tied up all day and was unable to respond – my sincere apologies!
To give you a change from the usual mammal skulls I gave you this bird to identify:
It’s quite a characteristic bird, so I decided to make it more of a challenge by leaving out the usual scale bar – if you’re interested the head of this specimen is about 10cm long.
Obviously the comparatively large head and massive bill were key features that were picked up on, giving the following answers:
I’m pleased to say that the vast majority of you managed to get the correct identification; it is indeed the skeleton of a Kookaburra, more specifically the Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae (Hermann, 1783).
Laughing Kookaburra perched in a eucalypt tree. Taken in December 2008 in Victoria, Australia by Fir0002
These large antipodean kingfishers have a very distinctive call, which sounds to me like the laugh of a clown from a nightmare. In fact, I expect these birds are a bit of a nightmare for any small critters that live in their vicinity. That big robust bill is powerful and they use it to eat a wide range of animals including worms, snakes, rats and even some fairly decent sized birds.
They aren’t subtle about their hunting either. They simply grab their prey in their bill and smash it on the ground, on a branch or on a rock then swallow it whole. Often they keep smashing it for quite a while – after all, swallowing a live snake or rat probably isn’t a great idea.
If you look at the skull you might notice a deep groove around the back and a deep indentation on the lower jaw or mandible:
These are muscle scars and it’s quite unusual to find such impressive areas for muscle attachment in bird skulls, but then most birds don’t rely quite as much on brute force to catch and subdue their prey. Kookaburras mean business.
On Friday I gave you this rather cool skull to identify:
There was no doubt that this was a carnivore of some sort, given the sharp canines and the massive carnassial teeth. Most of you spotted that it was the skull of a juvenile or subadult, given the partially emerged teeth and the unfused sutures. Most of you also spotted that it was a canid of some sort, given the overall shape and the tooth arrangement.
The correct identification was arrived at in short order by David Craven and many of you concurred with his neatly veiled answer of
Apologies for the lack of response to questions last Friday, I was travelling and had limited access to the internet.
Excuses aside, I was impressed by the overall accuracy of the answers received about what this skull belonged to:
Everyone spotted that it was a carnivore and most of you identified this as being the skull of a mustelid, but no-one seems to have got this identification spot-on (perhaps my stinking clue was a bit too vague). Suggestions ranged a fair bit and uncertainty was rife, as shown in this word cloud of the comments:
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the clue, Skunks were suggested quite a lot as were Civets and Polecats/Ferrets (which are indistinguishable from each other on the basis of the skull, since Ferrets are just domesticated Polecats).
This suggestion of Polecat is pretty much there, although the specimen is not the standard European Polecat Mustela putorius rather it is an African mustelid known as the Continue reading →
It’s from one of two boxes labelled NH.83.1, which between them contained twenty unidentified skulls from a variety of different animals, ranging from fish to birds and mammals – several of which have been used as mystery objects in the past.
These boxes have been in the Horniman collections since the 1930′s and there is very little information available about the specimens, so it falls to me to make identifications. The comments I receive when using these specimens as mystery objects is always useful – it makes me double check my identification in light of the suggestions that you make – a form of review that I find very valuable. So thanks to everyone who attempted an identification, your thoughts have proved really useful!
From the outset the suggestions made were along the same lines as I’d been thinking – Prancing Papio FCD suggested a Maxwell’s Duiker, which is of similar size but has a narrower skull, smaller braincase and horns set far back on the skull, rather than originating just above the orbit like this one. This difference in the horn position and the relative size of the braincase rules out all of the Duikers in fact.
Jake suggested Dik-dik using a cryptic clue that I totally misunderstood – but this skull is a fair bit bigger than that of a Dik-dik’s and it has much longer nasal bones (Dik-diks have a bizarrely truncated nasal region).
Stephen J Henstridge suggested Steenbok, which is what I had originally thought it might be, since it’s almost identical, but a few little details of the palate, the horn orientation and the post-orbital process make me think that Stephen’s follow up suggestion of Continue reading →
On Friday I gave you this sectioned bit of a critter as the mystery object:
A slightly trickier one than usual, so I wasn’t surprised at the range of suggestions – ranging from a vertebra to a Narwhal tusk. Jack Ashby got in first with a tentative stab at the right answer when he said ‘sawfish maybe?‘ a suggestion supported by Carlos Grau. It is indeed part of the rostrum (beak or nose) of a Continue reading →