April 2019

Strange bone

Can you tell me what this skeleton is from? It was found in our dry dam in CQ west of Gladstone, along with some long slender what looked to be leg bones about as thick as my little finger.

Answer

Photo courtesy of Gemma Geiger.Our initial hunch was that you had found the pelvis of a bird. With this as a starting point, we compared your photo (thoughtfully provided with an indication of scale) against our research collection. Ideally we would have had the bone in-hand for this exercise, but it is probably fragile and we wouldn’t suggest that it be posted.

The pelvis appears to be from a much larger bird species than we had initially suspected. It is almost identical to those in the skeletons of our Straw-necked Ibis and Spoonbill. This group of species are closely related and belong to the family Threskiornithidae.

If you still have the piece of bone, consider its weight. Compared to the marrow-packed bones of mammals, bird bones are very light. The larger bones of the legs, wings and pelvis often contain air spaces and are very thin. These features and others mean that a bird’s skeletal design is optimised for flight.


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