Things to Make and Do, part 6d: Veronica the ostrich skull, laid bare

June 30, 2010

Cleaning and bleaching is complete!  Here are all the bones of Veronica’s skull [see earlier part one, part two and part three], laid out as they were in life (though of course much more widely separated), all in dorsal view:

On the left, we have the bones of the lower jaw, palate and braincase, with the first three and a half vertebrae at the bottom.  At the top is the mandible, which is intact on the left side but has separate articular, angular and surangular on the right; between the mandibles are the hyoid bones, of which one of the cartilaginous extensions has survived.  Behind those on the midline are the fused vomers, parasphenoid rostrum and braincase, all fused together.  Alongside this element are the palatines and pterygoids, and to the right of those are the midline supporting cartilage and mesethesmoid ossification.  Behind the braincase are the first three and half vertebrae of the neck.

On the right, we have the superficial bones.  Reading down from top to bottom of the midline, we have the premaxilla, nasals, lacrimals, frontals, parietals, and (out towards the sides) squamosals; from top to bottom down the sides we have the premaxilla (again), maxillae (the left one broken in two), the jugals and quadratojugals (which are still fused together on the right) and finally the quadrates.

That’s everything!  My next tasks are:

  • Repair the three broken bones: left maxilla, left posterolateral process of the premaxilla, and left lacrymal.
  • Photograph every individual bone from all six cardinal directions and maybe some interesting oblique angles.
  • Put the skull back together.
  • Photograph the entire skull, including 3d anaglyphs.

Then I think I’ll be done.

Special bonus encouragement

A few articles back, Zach Miller commented:

You lucky bastard! First a monitor lizard, now this? I’ve really GOT to get some kind of deal going with my local zoo. :-)

Lucky?  Nothing to do with it!  One of the points I keep meaning to make in the Things To Make And Do series is how very much this is something anyone can do.  Well, OK, I admit I was super-lucky to score the monitor lizard; but I got the pig’s head by walking into a butcher’s shop and saying “One of your finest pig’s heads, please, my stout yeoman!”.  I got Veronica by googling for “ostrich farm” and emailing the ones in the UK asking whether any of them had any heads to spare. I urge you, and anyone else who loves anatomy, to do the same.

Anyone can do this!  You don’t need qualifications, or even experience; this is how you get experience.  Seriously, I’ve learned ten times more about dinosaur skulls in the last week from playing with Veronica than I did in the last five years of feeling guilty that I never read any head-related papers.

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7 Responses to “Things to Make and Do, part 6d: Veronica the ostrich skull, laid bare”


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Rowan. Chris Rowan said: Things to Make and Do, part 6d: Veronica the ostrich skull, laid bare http://bit.ly/bdocuN [...]

  2. Bruce J. Mohn Says:

    I used to get reptile carcasses for free at the local pet shop. There is always a certain amount of attrition in their stock and usually they just throw the dead out. Alternatively, you might contact some of the on-line reptile dealers and see if they would be willing to give you their dead stock or sell it to you (probably at a modest price).

    Bruce


  3. [...] Work continues apace with Veronica, my tame ostrich.  (See previous parts one, two, three and four).  I’ve been photographing the individual bones of the skull — a skill that’s [...]

  4. Heinrich Mallison Says:

    My dear Mike, you keep forgetting that not anyone can do this – at least not do this and stay married LOL

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    Actually, Heinrich, Veronica has not been a source of contention. Unlike say Logan The Deliquescing Wallaby, or indeed Charlie the semi-decomposed monitor lizard, she’s smelled sweet pretty much throughout the whole process.

  6. Heinrich Mallison Says:

    That’s great to hear :) I get tough times for bringing home (definitely un-stinky) stones….. :)


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