Friday mystery object #259

This week I have an object that I found hiding in an unnumbered box during a reshuffle of the Horniman bone room (more about that later):


I managed to work out what it was and reunite it with other parts of the same specimen, which was very satisfying, but it took me four attempts where I checked against other specimens to get the correct identification. Do you think you can do better?

As always you can leave your questions, thoughts and suggestions in the comments box below. Good luck!

Friday mystery object #170 answer

On Friday I gave you this pair of bones to identify:

It didn’t take long for the type of bone to be identified, with Anthony Wilkes immediately spotting that these are the quadrates of a bird. Then things got more tricky as the type of bird became the focus of the identification.

Robin was the first to recognise the family and likely type of bird, with henstridgesj concurring, with the agreement being on these quadrates being from a  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #170

This week I’ve got two bits of bone (photographed to show the shape from each side) that I identified at work last week – can you work out what these are and what animal they’re from?

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

Friday mystery object #160 answer

On Friday I gave you this distinctive looking bird skull to identify:

On Twitter and Facebook there were incorrect suggestions of Toucan and Flamingo, but in the comments here Ric Morris dropped a heavy hint at the correct species identification within 6 minutes of the mystery object being posted, with hestridgesj and 23thorns also getting the right species a little later.

This skull was listed in the Horniman’s 1934 Natural History register as Corvultur abyssinicus, a species name that to the best of my knowledge has never been scientifically recognised. But the name suggests a vulture-like corvid from Abyssinia – or what is now called Egypt. This information plus the distinctive size and shape of the skull and bill led me to surmise that the specimen is from a  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #153

This week I am delving into a box of bits to provide a genuine mystery object. I expect I will be doing a few items from this box in the coming weeks, since I am reaching the end of my curatorial review of the Horniman’s mammal osteology collections and I have been left with just a few boxes of random odds and ends that have been on display or have been cut up and the other part put on display.

These items have no information with them at all, so each is a genuine mystery that I hope to solve – a process that starts with identification. Any idea what this might be?

As usual you can put your thoughts, suggestions and observations below and I’ll do my best to reply. 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 #141

This week I’ve been rather swamped with co-organising the Natural Science Collections Association conference, so I haven’t had much time to think of a good mystery object from the Horniman’s collections. However, here is a nice (if somewhat distinctive) specimen from the excellent Grant Museum of Zoology for you to identify:


Any idea what it is?

You can put your comments below and I’ll do my best to respond, as the opportunity arises. Best of luck!

Friday mystery object #135

This Friday I’ve decided to really challenge your identification skills with a single bone that I found in the Horniman’s collections.

There was no information of any kind with this specimen, although the material it shared a box with was acquired from the King’s College Comparative Zoology collection. That means that it could be from pretty much any animal on the planet. What do you think it is? (N.B. since it is tricky I’ve given you an image from every angle.)

As usual, you can put your questions, comments and suggestions below and I’ll do my best to respond during the day. Good luck (I think you may need it).