Friday mystery object #461 answer

Last week I gave you a guest mystery object from Catherine McCarney, the manager of the Dissection Room at the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine:

The first question I normally try to answer when undertaking an identification is “what kind of bone is this?”, but in this instance it’s not immediately obvious.

There is a broad section with articulation points, a foramen (or at least something that looks like a hole, which might be a foramen) and a flattish section that looks like it probably butts up against something with a similar flat section. This would normally put me in mind of the ischium of a pelvis.

But it’s not a pelvis as the articulations are all wrong and the shape of the skinny piece of bone that projects off doesn’t fit any functional ilium shape that I’m aware of.

The pectoral girdle has a similar set of structural features and this object starts to make more sense with that in mind. Things like turtles and whales may have a structure like this, but there’s something to keep in mind: despite being fairly large, this object only weighed in at 26g.

Turtles and whales have dense bone that helps reduce buoyancy, to make remaining submerged less energetically demanding, but this bone must be full of air spaces – which offers a clue as to likely type of animal it came from. A bird – as Joe Vans noted in the comments.

Considering the size of this object there are very few possible candidates. Most birds are pretty small and this object is pretty big, so we just need to look at some of the Ratites.

The comparisons I managed to find have led me to the conclusion that this is most likely part of the pectoral girdle of an Ostrich Struthio camelus Linnaeus, 1758.

Pectoral girdle of an Ostrich by Uwe Gille, 2006.

More specifically, I think it’s the coracoid (#2 on image), clavicle (#3 on image), and scapula (#4 on image) from the left hand side of the pectoral girdle of an Ostrich.

I was delighted to see that Wouter van Gestel agreed with this assessment in the comments, since he knows more about bird bones than I could ever hope to learn!

Finally I’d like to thank the fatastic Catherine McCarney for sharing this mystery object from the depths of the Vet School’s collections. I hope you all enjoyed this challenge!

Friday mystery object #461

I have a great guest mystery object for you this week. It comes from the wonderful Catherine McCarney, who is manager of the Dissection Room at the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine:

Here’s what Catherine has to say about it:

This object is a bone fragment from an unknown animal. It was discovered while cataloging an old box of historic specimens in the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine. It’s of limited use in the vet program, but my Zoologist background is keen on answering the mystery rather than simply discarding it. It has me stumped, it’s light weight (just 26g) had me thinking it must be from a bird, but some features are reptile like.

So, do you have any thoughts on what this mystery object might be?

As ever, you can leave your thoughts, questions and suggestions in the comments box below. Happy sleuthing!

Friday mystery object #428

This week I’m delighted to have a guest mystery object for you, presented by Rohan Long, Curator of the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy & Pathology at the University of Melbourne (who is on Twitter as @zoologyrohan) and photographed beautifully by his colleague Gavan Mitchell:

This is a skull from the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology at the University of Melbourne. Although the focus of our museum is on human anatomy, we have a significant comparative anatomy collection, which comprises hundreds of specimens of vertebrate animals – skeletal material, skulls, and potted specimens. Occasionally, I’ve encountered animal specimens that are very difficult to definitively ID, and this partial skull is one of them.

Image by Gavan Mitchell, 2022
Image by Gavan Mitchell, 2022
Image by Gavan Mitchell, 2022
Image by Gavan Mitchell, 2022

Our comparative anatomy collections date from the earliest 20th century and are predominantly native Australian mammals and domestic animal species. However, the academics at the University have always had international networks, and there are species represented in the collection from all over the world. Many have been prepared in a lab for class specimens, many have been collected in the field. The latter are assumed to have been associated with Frederic Wood Jones, a British anatomist with a fondness for comparative anatomy and island collecting trips who was head of our Anatomy Department from 1930 to 1937.

Do you have any ideas what this portion of skull might be from? I don’t think we need cryptic answers for this one. Rohan will be keeping a close eye on the comments, so do feel free to ask questions.

I hope you have fun with it!

Friday mystery object #330

This week I have some guest mystery objects for you, provided by Paul Offelman-Flohic of the Écomusée du pays de Rennes. These are specimens that survived a fire, but lost their information, so let’s help fill in the blanks!


I recognise these specimens and I expect many of you will have a pretty good idea of what they are, so a bit of cryptic punnery (is that a word?) in the answers would be fun and will help avoid spoiling the challenge for everyone else. Amusez-vous bien!