Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bone Discovery - To be or not to be a Scientist

I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in mathematics. By definition, that makes me a scientist and naturally scientists are curious about things. Anyone who knows me is aware of how curious I am about all sorts of things. Today, curiosity got the best of me and hence this blog post. I walk my dog most every evening while participating in the LMARS net (on 174.285 for those interested). I take different paths each night while walking but most nights I pass a wooded area. Recently, I noticed a set of bones that were roughly 2 meters in from the sidewalk and reasonably exposed to the elements. There was a hole dug out in between where they were resting, which did not make much sense to me. I will head out to the area of interest tomorrow to take some photos so that everyone can see what i'm talking about. Not too long ago, this animal was an eating, breathing, living being that was busy doing its business. What type of animal is it? How did it die? Why did the animal die at this location? I started asking myself all sorts of questions and decided to start searching for some answers. After examining the bones for a few more minutes, I decided I should pack up my pooch, head back to my apartment, grab a box, some gloves and start collecting the specimen. That's exactly what I did. I excavated all sorts of small bones and fragments from the site. One of the leg bones was roughly 3 meters away from the rest of the bones and I found several ribs roughly 2+ meters away. I am expecting other animals (vultures) probably got to chewing on some of the remains and carried these bones a distance from the main site. I had to sift through all sorts of foliage, dirt, branches, etc to pull them out but i'm reasonably satisfied with my findings. All in all, I spent roughly 30 minutes collecting. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the skull !! I am going to make a second attempt at the area tomorrow to see if it was dragged away.

I placed all the bones into a cardboard box and carried them home. I then proceeded to wash them by hand in warm water, wearing gloves. I was careful to keep all bones that were still attached with flesh together. Some of the pieces detached during cleaning, including the hip bone. After being washed, I put all the bones on a piece of plastic on top of napkins to dry out. You can see the results below.

As stated above, i'm a computer scientist, not an anthropologist. My mom did teach anthropology in college and I learned a bit about it when I was a kid. Outside of that, i've never taken a course and have no 'professional experience' in such things, so if you or someone you know can shed some light on this topic, please let me know. I was able to identify what appeared to be the following bones immediately.
  • several ribs
  • several vertebrae
  • several throacic vertebrae
  • a scapula
  • front leg bones
  • heind leg bones
  • tail bone
  • pelvis
  • several teeth
If I were to make an 'un-educated' guess at this time, I would wager on canine. But that's enough guessing games for me, it's time to get back to the table and start fitting the pieces together!


Dan said...

i'm sure you wife was thoroughly pleased to have you washing animal corpse bones in the kitchen sink.

Joseph Armbruster said...

Yeah, she loves it :-)