I expected you to work out what these came from pretty easily – and you proved me right. In fact, I think this was probably the easiest mystery object so far, given that everyone managed to get a correct identification of Continue reading →
I know Christmas has been and gone, so this post is far from breaking news, but I’ve been meaning to write it ever since I saw this advertisement on a local bus stop:
Now although I’m an atheist, I really don’t have a problem with the advertisement for any reason beyond the utter banality of the message. It’s a bit like saying this:
For both there is an etymological root linking a supernatural figure to the name of a day – it’s very common, just think of other supernatural figures that lend their names to days, like Tiw, Wodin and Freyja. I wonder if we should also remember these deities on their appropriate days? That seems to be the logical implication of the Christian advert.
But then, what should be done about Easter? Maintaining the logic of the Christian advertising around Christmas, it would seem that we should remember that Easter is named for the pagan goddess Ēostre. This seems doubly reasonable since there is hardly any difference between the Christian celebration and the Pagan fertility festival, with all it’s rampant rabbits and eggy delights.
The fact is that by following the logic of the advertising we should either be utterly ignoring the etymological root of Christmas, as we do for Easter and Tuesday, or we should be acknowledging the etymological root for all days named after supernatural beings.
I’ve decided to make sure I remember that Christmas is about Christ, Easter is about Ēostre and Thursday is most definitely about Thor, which is presumably what constitutes hammer time:
On Friday I showed you some specimens that I had to identify in the museum last week, and I asked if you had any idea what they might be:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, several of you did have a very good idea.
They look a bit bony, but they’re not bone. They look a bit toothy, but they’re not teeth. They look a scutey, but they’re not scutes. They are in fact from an animal that doesn’t have bones, teeth or scutes.
This week I have some mystery objects that I had to identify earlier this week. Any idea what these things might be?
I’m going to be in Buxton for the day, looking at a mermaid (as is my wont), so I may not be able to respond to comments as usual. That said, I will try, so put your suggestions, observations and questions below – I will respond eventually.
This type of bone can prove tricky to identify, and we often have queries about them on Ask A Biologist. With a large example like this one there will often be a suspicion that it comes from a human.
However, this is in fact the humerus of a bird – the large flange at the proximal end (the bit nearest the body) makes it hard to spot the rounded point where it articulates with the scapula, coracoid and furcula bones that make up the shoulder joint. The flange itself provides a large attachment area for the tendons and muscle needed to power and control flight.
Here are some images of a (much smaller) goose humerus that show the general structure of the bone more clearly:
Once you’ve recognised the mystery object as the humerus of a bird, the length of about 45cm (17.7 inches) immediately narrows down the species it could come from.
Jack Ashby was the first to recognise what this humerus belonged to and he found support from Rachel, Carlos, Julie Doyle and initially Barbara Powell (although she later opted for another possibility). It’s the humerus of an Continue reading →
On Friday I gave you this piece of an animal to identify:
As expected, you managed to work out what it is in fairly short order.
Jake recognised it as skin, Denis Copilas as scales and Rhea as carapace – all of which are right at least in part. Henstridgesj and Barbara Powell’s friend Alison spotted that the section of carapace came from a Cowfish or Boxfish. There wasn’t really enough information available to identify it any further than that.
Fortunately this specimen had a label associated with it, so I can tell you that the section of carapace is from the Continue reading →