Friday mystery object #175 answer

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

Friday mystery object #166 answer

On Friday I gave you this great skull from the Grant Museum of Zoology to identify:

A big list of you (Mieke RothJakemcarnall, 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

Friday mystery object #163 answer

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.

It seems that most of you also noticed the scar and came to similar conclusions, so  23thorns, cackhandedkate, Ric Morris, Jake and Steven D. Garber all recognised it as a woodpecker of some sort and given the length of the skull rachel and henstridgesj arrived at the same conclusion about species as I did, which is the  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #157

Over the last week or so I’ve been going through some of the bird skulls in the Horniman’s collection. Here’s a nice one that you might enjoy identifying:

As usual you can put your suggestions, comments and questions below and I’ll do my best to answer. Good luck!

Friday mystery object #145

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!

Friday mystery object #143 answer

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 Civet Paradoxurus 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):

Asian palm civet skull and dentition by Paul Gervais (1816-1879)

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.

In the end an online French viverrid identification resource I’d not seen before provided me with the information I needed to exclude the Giant Forest Genet. Mainly it came down to whether the premaxillary bones made contact with the frontal bones – they do in the Giant Forest Genet, but they don’t in this specimen. Also, the area where the temporalis muscle attached is too narrow in this specimen.

In light of these observations and with reference to specimens in the Horniman’s collections (including one that I used as a mystery object a year ago) I am fairly confident in identifying this as  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #137 answer

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