Pathological mammal skulls of the California Academy of Sciences

January 31, 2014

CalAcad Skulls - wall of voodoo

Back in the early aughts Cal Acad did a huge exhibit simply titled, “Skulls”. It was extremely rad, and I could have been running a separate blog this whole time with nothing but photos from that exhibit. (Update: the website for the exhibit is still going. Check it out.) I was just sorting through some old folders and found some favorites. The photo above is the wall of California sea lion skulls, 900-odd in all, arranged from the biggest, gnarliest males on one end to the most gracile females on the other end.

CalAcad Skulls - sad sea lions

They also had quite a few pathological sea lion skulls. Here are two that haunted me–they got tangled up in fishing lines that slowly sawed through their skulls and into their brains, killing them.

CalAcad Skulls - sad elk

This elk had a pretty funky growth on its right dentary.

CalAcad Skulls - sad deer

But easily the most “Naw!”-inducing pathology in the whole exhibit was this poor deer, which has a pathological growth the size and shape of a big pastry where its right eye used to be. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence that its antlers are all wonky, too–maybe Darren will show up and enlighten us.

So if you’re feeling down, you can at least console yourself that you don’t have a flyblown, pus-leaking cinnamon roll of pathological bone growing on your face. Have a nice day!

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8 Responses to “Pathological mammal skulls of the California Academy of Sciences”

  1. Andrew Thomas Says:

    Lovely!

  2. Mark Robinson Says:

    Nice! That last pic is obviously of one of Satan‘s reindeer.

    Also, on the wall o’ skulls, #E68 is not a sealion. Looks like a bovid to me. Ooh, and just noticed #H63, some sort of suid I think.

  3. Matt Wedel Says:

    Ho! Good eye. I had completely forgotten about that–they had a handful of non-sea-lion Easter eggs scattered across the wall.

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    I love it that that was someone’s idea of a joke.

  5. William Miller Says:

    How does fishing line saw through a skull?!?!

    And having this happen twice, so apparently this isn’t just some colossal fluke? That’s pretty scary…

    That deer thing is also pretty awful. What causes something like that?

  6. Matt Wedel Says:

    How does fishing line saw through a skull?!?!

    Time and pressure.

    And having this happen twice, so apparently this isn’t just some colossal fluke? That’s pretty scary…

    Yeah, I think it’s not that rare. I could be misremembering, but I think they had a sea otter skull on display with the same problem. I’ve definitely seen lots of pictures of waterfowl with fishing line tourniquets causing permanent injuries. Pretty vile stuff.

    That deer thing is also pretty awful. What causes something like that?

    I suspect some kind of infection in the eye that got into the bone and went nuts. If you want some nightmare fuel, do an image search for “osteomyelitis”. Just not on a full stomach.


  7. yah and H 63 is a pig… and if you look about 3 skulls over in the diagonal direction its nose is pointing there is what appears to be a canid of some sort.

    ugh i imagine that fishin line caused a localized chronic infection/inflammation that helped it work it’s way through the bone. poor bugger must’ve been in a hell of a lot of pain before it died. yet another reason not to throw your bird’s nest of monofilament away when your reel de-spools. also, yet another reason spear fishing is a superior way to catch fish.

    GOOD POST!


  8. […] Pathologies are my favorite part of osteology and here is a collection of pathological skulls from the California Academy of Sciences. […]


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