Because I don't have time for anything else


Let's have some fun. Try and identify this tetrapod: and you have to get it down to genus. Good luck.

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Phoenicopterus (flamingo)?


By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 06 Feb 2009 #permalink

Ropen osseum

By Andreas Johansson (not verified) on 06 Feb 2009 #permalink

Yay, ropens! One of my colleagues leaves this Sunday for a trip to New Guinea on which he will be looking for ropens. I'm not kidding. It'll be on TV later this year, but if he finds one you'll hear it here first.

I'm sure it isn't a mammal, for it has more than seven vertebrae. It is also not a pterosaur due to the fact the vertebrae seem small and numerous enough to make that a flexible neck; the same applies to sauropods and Tanystropheus. So it is a bird for sure.

On the ropen matter, is your friend a creationist Darren?

On the ropen matter, is your friend a creationist Darren?

Nope, just someone prepared to take advantage of an all-expenses-paid trip offered by a TV company!


Specifically Forasta caustica, or the green dragon. Distinguished from the black dragon Forasta crocodyla by the length and curve of the neck.

I have a vague memory of seeing it before, and something's telling me it's a moa. I have absolutely no justification for this, though, only a feeling.

By Richard Hing (not verified) on 06 Feb 2009 #permalink

I suspect a moa, but for the sake of revealing my poor knowledge of the distinguishing characteristics, I could not pin a genus to this. The high spines, short and numerous centra, and robust ribs imply a highly flexible and robust neck, and all I can think of in this case is a moa.

By Jaime A. Headden (not verified) on 06 Feb 2009 #permalink

JuliaM: Those prints are definitely not made by any kind of feline.

You can immediately tell from how the digit prints are arranged. In cats, they form an asymmetrical pattern. You can see what I mean in this or in this photograph (those tracks are made by an Eurasian lynx and a bobcat, respectively, but Panthera cats and all other felines, AFAIK, have pretty much the same digit arrangement).

Digit prints in dog and other canine tracks, on the other hand, are nicely symmetrical - as in this wolf track. And in canine tracks, the claws are usually visible - as they are in the tracks of the anmal in the Daily Mail article. So my guess would be that those mystery tracks are either made by a very large dog (and note that there are several breeds that are considerably larger than Alsatians), made by a wolf/dog hybrid, or they are a hoax. But they're certainly not made by a cat of any kind.

Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)?
If I were at work I could pop down the corridor to check.

By Mark Evans (not verified) on 07 Feb 2009 #permalink

Cool weekend entretainment....perhaps Branta or other "goosey" anatid?

A Nolatifniwaguacbewdiftotaycus sp., a large species of large, flightless bird native to the computer hard drive of one Darren Naish.

By Metalraptor (not verified) on 07 Feb 2009 #permalink

JuliaM, Dartian: I'd seen that Daily Mail piece before and also thought "large dog", but inspired by (OK, liberally stealing from) Dartian I've now gone back and left a comment (surprisingly, none had already been made).

As for the mystery tetrapod, I would have guessed some sort of snake, which shows how much I know.

By Terry Hunt (not verified) on 07 Feb 2009 #permalink

As for the neck... it seems sort of overly chunky for most living long-necked birds (ostrich, flamingo, swan, Ciconiformes, etc), too long for much else, and not fossilised enough for moa. So i'm going to stick my neck out (ha ha) and say Casuarius. Probably totally wrong, but what the hell, worth a try.

As to the prints: Definitely canine, not feline. The one odd thing seems to be just how *long* that one print is, especially as the ruler doesn't look distorted, ruling out photoshopping or weird camera angle. But it could be an unusual print caused by jumping or limping or something - the others in the photo look much closer to normal dog print proportions. Cat prints are rounder than dog prints, anyway, so this is the opposite extreme to what a big cat print could reasonably be expected to look like...

Not Cygnus or dromornithid, otherwise hard to get a sense of scale. No bird would keep its neck so nearly straight in a state of nature, which makes me suspect it's the very-vertical Dinornis mount made famous by being touched inappropriately by Richard Owen (there's photographic evidence! - I'm amazed he was allowed to get away with it, and him not even a clergyman). A lot of moa remains are pretty fresh-looking. (I'm not at work and haven't even taken a book off a shelf)

By John Scanlon, FCD (not verified) on 08 Feb 2009 #permalink

I don't think it's a moa for one simple reason: we've been told we can get it down to genus. That means that one of two things is true. Either there's some distinguishing character visible in the picture, or it's from a family with just one genus. Now, I don't know the first thing about bird anatomy, but there aren't any mammals (...that I can think of right now, anyway) that you can identify just by vertebrae.

So if there's not any good characters, then it must be from an easily identifiable genus. And moas came in six genera, which makes me think it must be something else.

By onychomys (not verified) on 08 Feb 2009 #permalink

Most of the guesses are that it's some sort of avian, but it would be a hoot if it turned out to be a mammal or plesiosaur.

My own guess is that it's a cassowary.

Since everyone seems to have given up on mammals I'm going to say Bradypus, just for the heck of it. He laughs at your puny 7 cervical vertebrae.

Or what about something like Pelagornis. The only reconstructed skeleton I've ever seen (NMNH) had a long, fairly straight neck.

But if a bird, need it be a very long-necked one? Even penguins have more neck vertebrae than most mammals.

These are all just wild guesses. Can we go back to identifying skulls now?

I thought 'swan' and then thought not. I reckon those are too short and too many to be cervicals of any extant long-necked bird.

Moa (=plural too, so I've read here) had as I recall a more drastically tapering set of cervicals (big body, tiny head, like Anne Elk's brontosaurus).

Thinking laterally, if Darren's short of time it may be something in his workplace or even at home (unless he's working away from home busy. Shucks. Or had the image already stowed somewhere. Even likelier shucks.)

No... wait!! Surely....

It's the mythical long-necked pinniped at last!

hmm, I'm sure I'm getting closer.

Maybe it's not a bird at all.

More lateralism... Look at the background for clues. Scale: is that wood... shelves? a crate? a chair? Smallish, then.

Gaaah, I'll just go crazy and say a stoat with all its ribs pulled off. Then at least you can all have a laugh at me.

By Graham King (not verified) on 12 Feb 2009 #permalink