Tetrapod Zoology

Some days ago I went to the Isle of Wight Tiger and Lemur Sanctuary (which is where I saw all those big cats). And while there, one of the undoubted highlights was this amazing beast…


What is it, and what can you tell us about it? You get points for being clever, not for trying to be funny 🙂


  1. #1 Dartian
    August 25, 2009

    Isn’t it a female (or subadult male) shoveler Anas clypeata? And you went ‘Holy crap!’ over it because… er, because they’re really rare in the UK nowadays and you’ve rarely/never seen one in the wild before?

  2. #2 Dartian
    August 25, 2009

    Oh, we were supposed to say something clever about it too? Let’s see… Well, the northern shoveler Anas clypeata is not the only species of shoveler; there are three other species. However, all those others are distributed exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere: the red shoveler A. platalea in southern South America, the Cape shoveler A. smithii in southern Africa, and the Australasian shoveler A. rhynchotis in Australia and New Zealand. Thus, A. clypeata is the only species of shoveler with a “non-Gondwanan” distribution.

  3. #3 Sigmund
    August 25, 2009

    Where’s Ray Comfort when we really need him?

    Oh yes, we don’t really need him, do we…

  4. #4 Rosel
    August 25, 2009

    It’s not one of those ducks that has its ducklings launch themselves off cliffs and buildings?

    or could it be a great green camera worm?

  5. #5 Onychomys
    August 25, 2009

    If reading TetZoo has taught us anything, it’s that whenever asked, “What is this?”, you should always just guess that it’s a decomposing racoon.

  6. #6 Daniella Perea
    August 25, 2009

    is IT a decomposing raccoon?

  7. #7 Oll
    August 25, 2009

    Looks like a mallard to me (Anas platyrhynchos)it may be a hybrid, I am probably wrong though.

    Mallards can often produce fertile hybrid offspring with other closely related species, the resulting genetic pollution can eventually make rarer species of duck extinct.

  8. #8 Turdus
    August 25, 2009

    The greenish bill color and shape don’t look quite right for a shoveler to me. I am going to guess a Mallard hybrid, maybe with a shoveler.

  9. #9 Kevin Schreck
    August 25, 2009

    I would guess a juvenile mallard/American black duck hybrid, but the color of the bill seems incorrect for that…

  10. #10 Onychomys
    August 25, 2009

    Speaking of mallards (and I agree that it’s probably a female mallard, although I have no idea why that’d be notable), did you know you can rearrange Anas platyrhynchos to spell “a phyla shanty scorn”? This means something, cosmically, although I have no idea what.

  11. #11 Raymond Ho
    August 25, 2009

    Looks like a female mallard x american black duck hybrid, no?

  12. #12 Will Baird
    August 25, 2009

    OMG! It’s a real duck-billed dinosaur!

    (sorry, couldn’t help myself)

  13. #13 Mo Hassan
    August 25, 2009

    Is it not a Meller’s duck (Anas melleri), from Madagascar and formerly Mauritius? Interesting because it’s very similar to a mallard (at least not the male in breeding plumage) but seems to be very distinct from it.

  14. #14 Kryptos18
    August 25, 2009

    It definitely looks like a shoveler, and due to the dark bill and coloration looks like a female Australasian shoveler Anas rhynchotis. Or it could just be a dark-billed variant female Northern shoveler. I guess it remains to be seen.

  15. #15 andy
    August 25, 2009

    Oh no, not another feathered maniraptoran theropod. This trend for putting feathers on absolutely everything is getting ridiculous. Can’t we have some scaly dinosaurs once in a while?

  16. #16 Brian
    August 25, 2009

    I’m putting my money on it being an Australasian shoveler female. The reason why it is so unusual is that, like all indigenous Australian animals, forbidden to be exported and therefore a very uncommon presence in any European zoo, though not unheard of. Comparable in rarity to Calyptorhynchus or Callocephalon cockatoos.

    Well, that’s just my two cents. Clearly, I know more about parrots than about ducks.

  17. #17 Mike Keesey
    August 25, 2009

    Holy crap! It’s a self-replicating homeostatic system!

  18. #18 Neil
    August 25, 2009

    Its missing the blue wing bar of a mallard, so its not that. If I saw it in the wild in the UK I would say a female gadwall simply beacuse its the most common option, although it could be garganey. If its not a Uk species – I dont have a clue!

  19. #19 ObSciGuy
    August 25, 2009

    At first glance – ignoring details like the clipped wing – it looks most like a female mallard, but the bill is wacky! What’s up with that blueish hue and black nail? The distal portion of the bill looks almost scaup-like.

    It also looks like it has a pale/white terminal border to the speculum (good for some variant of Mallard, and A. melleri), assuming it’s not a hybrid, I’m leaning towards Meller’s Duck (Anas melleri) – otherwise, “Mallard x ???”.

  20. #20 Zach Miller
    August 25, 2009

    It certainly looks like a female mallard to me, and I should know–they stick around in the winter up here (go figure) in some lakes.

  21. #21 Alan
    August 25, 2009

    I’m going with Mellers duck. Unlike most ducks, the sexes are identical and the male shares care of the ducklings. They have been introduced into Mauritius where they were fairly common until recently.

  22. #22 doug l
    August 25, 2009

    “Why a duck? Why not a chicken?”

  23. #23 Monty
    August 25, 2009

    It’s a witch! Burn ‘er!

  24. #24 Diego
    August 25, 2009

    Decomposing raccoons? That’s weird because I found a dead raccoon in my yard yesterday. I buried it rather than playing with guts because I am worried about rabies (there is a pretty bad outbreak here at the moment). So I now have a decomposing raccoon in the ground under my yard.

    Oh yeah, and I agree that the duck looks like a shoveler although there is something odd about it.

  25. #25 rose
    August 25, 2009

    At first sight it looks like a female mallard – but somethings wrong with the beak – too big, wrong colour.
    So, my guess is also some kind of shoveler.

  26. #26 blueshifter
    August 25, 2009

    looks like a duck. walks like a duck. sounds like a duck. yep. it’s a duck.

  27. #27 Alan Kellogg
    August 25, 2009

    Darren, your fascination with extremely derived Rhipidistians is starting to worry me.

  28. #28 Nentuaby
    August 25, 2009

    It’s a Platypus-Billed Duck!

  29. #29 John Harshman
    August 26, 2009

    I’ll tentatively agree with Meller’s Duck. Everything fits except the eye-stripe, which Meller’s shouldn’t have. (Of course I’ve never seen a real one, not even a skin.) But I can’t think of anything else. If it’s some kind of hybrid, all bets are off. You couldn’t have let us see at least the speculum?

  30. #30 Bob Michaels
    August 26, 2009

    It could be a common Eider that`s out of place.

  31. #31 Julie L
    August 26, 2009

    It’s a duck-billed DUCK… female-type.

  32. #32 DD
    August 26, 2009

    Bluebill aka lesser scaup?

  33. #33 Robert J. Grieve
    August 26, 2009

    The stripe across the head (eyestripe) and bill color seems to indicate a female common teal (Anas crecca). “Holy Crap” because of the muck these ducks will dabble through for a snack.

    Too bad that reed is in the way of getting a gander at the wing plumage. Maybe someone could give ducky a goose?

  34. #34 Darren Naish
    August 26, 2009

    Thanks to all for guesses. The answer is coming later today. Some of you were so very wrong, some of you so very right.

  35. #35 Havoc
    August 26, 2009

    It’s foul. 0>

  36. #36 Anthony
    August 26, 2009

    Watch out you don’t get turned into a newt, Monty

  37. #37 Nigel Jarrett
    August 29, 2009

    It’s a dullard (Anas youngii) named for being a mallard of sobre plumage (and the great man who loves and studies these special animals). Either that or an old boot.

  38. #38 Darren Naish
    August 29, 2009

    For those not in the know, I should add that Nigel is an esteemed colleague of the great man he refers to 🙂

  39. #39 DDeden
    August 29, 2009

    Yeah, that green reed in the middle completely threw me off focus. Of course its not a bluebill! Its a [cont’d on next page]

  40. #40 Gail
    December 27, 2009

    It’s a decomposing Basking Shark of course!

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