What specimen is this?

May 1, 2013

A quiz. What is this?


Here it is in close-up:


(Click through the pictures for full resolution.)

Anyone know?

30 Responses to “What specimen is this?”

  1. Thoracics, sacrals and innominates of some fox-sized mammal. Maybe fox-sized; I suppose it could be badger-sized, or a tad larger. Dog?

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    Iiiinteresting … I won’t give the game away at this point, I’m interested in what other guesses we might get.

  3. Antonio Dias Says:

    Don’t know. But I have been meaning to ask you if you’ve done comparative studies of the necks of Swans and Herons, birds with long sinuous necks, in relation to sauropods? It seems at first blush these are more similar, at least in body proportions, than turkeys or even Emus.

    Enjoy your blog!

  4. Squiddhartha Says:

    It’s a snail!

    Oh, and also some bones. :)

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    The brutal truth is, we do comparative studies on the animals whose necks we can obtain. The whole process is very opportunistic. A few animals of interest (turkeys, ostriches) are farmed, so they’re relatively easy to get hold of. Swans, not so much.

  6. Antonio Dias Says:

    Thanks Mike!

    Aren’t there skeletons in museum collections? These creatures do die in the wild…. You found whatever that is in the tote!

    Just thinking they’d have similar mobility to long necked sauropods – if their morphology agreed at least! Would give hints as to the amount of soft-tissue and cartilage…, those sorts of questions.

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Yes, there are skeletons on museums, and they are certainly of some use. But much better is a freshly dead specimen, which we can take apart and discover things about vertebral spacing, cartilage, and other soft-tissue.

    And now I will say no more, for fear of prejudicing the manuscript that I and Matt have in review :-)

  8. Antonio Dias Says:

    That’s great!

  9. Adam Says:

    It’s a snail.

  10. Is it a young giraffe?

  11. Never mind, the cervicals are wrong (and probably too small even for an infant) :(

  12. Dean Says:

    A wee-little white tailed deer? The cervicals look familiar. And I found a dead juvenile in a pond not too long ago, are you sure you guys didn’t steal it from my golf course pond!

  13. Mike Taylor Says:

    Without giving too much away, I will say that no-one has got it yet. No-one is particularly close, even.

  14. I think given the diversity of vertebrate life out there, pegging it as either a mammal or a bird can be considered “particularly close,” especially when you consider that whole swaths of mammal and bird anatomy are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Narrowing down the dorsal aspect of the vertebra is, I think, the closest I can probably get to identity, and it doesn’t look like that vertebra is a cervical at all.

    So how’s this: I cannot see any xenarthroses to verify, but is this an armadillo?

  15. Nathan Myers Says:


  16. Mickey Mortimer Says:

    Jaime’s obviously right it’s the pelvis and lumbars of a mammal. I’ve skeletonized enough of those in my days. Don’t happen to remember how those areas differ between opossums, raccoons, cats, otters, etc., though.

  17. C. Pahl Says:

    I’m gonna guess it’s a virginia opossum.

  18. eotyrannus Says:

    Hey, that’s a loooong pelvis… I smell macropod.

  19. David Roberts Says:

    All the other snail commenters have it wrong. It’s TWO snails.

  20. Mike Taylor Says:

    Jaime, I think in this case it’s reasonable to expect a more precise answer than “mammal” or “bird”.

    I will say that one of the more recent comments is getting warm.

  21. William Miller Says:

    Could it be that wallaby from way back in Things to Make & Do part 3?

  22. Matt Wedel Says:

    All the other snail commenters have it wrong. It’s TWO snails.

    Even you have it wrong: it’s at least THREE snails. :-)

    Plus one thing in the goo, dead center in the top pic, and one-third in from the right margin in the second, that looks like maybe the shell of a fourth.

    As for the mammal, I note that the ilia have come away from both innominates, but the pubes and ischia are still attached. As for taxon, I have my suspicions but will keep mum for now.

  23. Dean Says:


  24. AnJaCo Says:

    Love this kind of post.
    Thinking out loud, er, or in print…

    Definitely mammal, you can see lots of hairs in the muck.

    Sub-adult or juvenile. From the aforementioned disarticulated innominate, and from the dissociated epiphyses of the centra.

    Vertebrae look to be cervicals – contra Mickey, sorry Mickey – lumbar verts would have more prominent transverse processes. In fact the two verts to the extreme right look to be close to the skull.

    Judging from the size of the tub, the critter was noticeably bigger than a cat.

    Any teeth that may be there have probably sunk to the bottom of the muck. But then if there were any visible teeth someone would have solved it by now.

    I’m gonna have to go with Cepaea spp.

  25. David Roberts Says:


    :-D knew someone would take the bait.

  26. […] Yesterday I asked whether anyone could identify this specimen: […]

  27. eotyrannus Says:

    Just realised that the bone at top left (in lower image) is an ilium. I originally said macropod because the pubis looks long and obturator foramina look long and ovoid – among the potential mammals you might be skeletonising, the big boys (badgers, foxes, deer) have shorter pubes and/or shorter, subcircular foramina. Long, ovoid foramina and long ilium: present in macropods, moles (size and obvious fusion of pelvis to sacrum rule them out here) and some rodents (again, size, plus more gracile ilium). Macropods you might get your hands on? Well, it’s gotta be Bennett’s wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus).

  28. eotyrannus Says:

    I refuse to click on the link. Oh, ok then…

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