Bisected pelican arm bones of the Oxford Museum of Natural History

March 17, 2018

Here are the humerus and ulna of a pelican, bisected:

What we’re seeing here is the top third of each bone: humerus halves on the left, ulna halves on the right, in a photo taken at the 2012 SVPCA in one of our favourite museums.

The hot news here is of course the extreme pneumaticity: the very thin bone walls, reinforced only at the proximal extremely by thin struts. Here’s the middle third, where as you can see there is essentially no reinforcement: just a hollow tube, that’s all:

And then at the distal ends, we see the struts return:

Here’s the whole thing in a single photo, though unfortunately marred by a reflection (and obviously at much lower resolution):

We’ve mentioned before that pelicans are crazy pneumatic, even by the standards of other birds: as Matt said about a pelican vertebra (skip to 58 seconds in the linked video), “the neural spine is sort of a fiction, almost like a tent of bone propped up”.

Honestly. Pelican skeletons hardly even exist.

3 Responses to “Bisected pelican arm bones of the Oxford Museum of Natural History”


  1. […] contrast to the very delicate pelican humerus and ulna in the previous post, here is the left femur of Aepyornis OUMNH 4950 — an “elephant bird” from […]


  2. […] pneumatic vertebrae. For more on the ridiculous pneumaticity of pelican bones, see this post and this one. For more on the homology of bird and sauropod vertebrae, see Wedel and Sanders (2002), and for […]


  3. […] Big Publishing. Also (and uncharacteristically) Mike posted on appendicular bones of birds, both skinny and fat. It was left to me to represent for sauropods, with posts on the cervical vertebrae of […]


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