Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Visit with the Naturalist--Part One

or What's this bone?

This winter while doing Second Looks, I found several bones in the lower part of my yard. They held a great fascination for me as I tried to guess what animal they came from. Recently I visited with Lynn, a naturalist at a local park, to see if she could give me any clues about what I was finding. While much of what she told me may be old hat to the biologists and naturalists out there, I found it all very interesting.

Since I've been finding mostly jaw bones (mandibles), she focused on teeth. Apparently herbivores have a space between their front incisors and their back grinding teeth, and omnivores and carnivores have a continuous set of teeth from front to back. There are variatons on this theme, but it holds true in most all cases. Next, she looked at size and shape, and then considered where the bone was found. With all of these considerations, Lynn then gave me her best guess as to what I had.

Below I've tried to represent what I learned about my collection. The information is not absolute, so kids, don't use this a reference for your school report. :)

We were all sure that this belonged to a deer.

The striations on this bone probably came from mice chewing on it to get calcium.

Notice the eye sockets are large and to the side. This is typical of a prey animal that must always be on the lookout.

This is the same skull as above turned over.

The large front gnawing teeth are missing.

Note the relative sizes of the deer, raccoon, young groundhog, and squirrel bones.

There, wasn't that interesting? (if you're into this kind of thing.)