Monday, November 10, 2008

Dem Bones

I found a skeleton out in the field the other day. In fact, here and there I've seen a lot of animal bones - in one location the bones were scattered over an area about 50 feet in diameter, one rib here, another one there, as though a coyote pack had torn everything asunder. That one looked like a cow to me; this one is smaller, possibly a deer?
Here's a detail of what is left of the pelvic area.
Here's a detail of the skull, with large teeth and a pointy nose. Any bone people know what it is?


Julia said...

Looks like a deer to me. I'm not too hot on North American species though. It looks a bit shorter than a red deer (our most common deer in the UK). It's too gracile to be a cow, and a sheep would have a much deeper skull from top to bottom.

If it is a deer, it's probably female. I don't know how early in life males develop their horns.

Andrew Alden, Oakland Geology blog said...

No leg bones--must be a giant rattler!

Chris M said...

I would have to agree with jj and go with Mule Deer.

Silver Fox said...

Thanks everyone! Especially JJ and ChrisM - Andrew, I'd love to think it was a huge snake, except then I'd really be antsy in the field! ;)

If it's a deer, then in Nevada, it has to be a Mule Deer, maybe a smallish one. The teeth look kind of funny to me, though, compared to most skull images I looked at. Maybe it didn't go to the orthodontist?

Julia said...

The only thing I can think of re the teeth is that in hominids at least when you don't have the benefit of the gums the teeth are fairly loose. I'm wondering if that may explain why the teeth look a bit too long? It's a bit late over here, but tomorrow I'll dig out my vertebrate taphonomy book and see if there are any particular post mortem phenomena.

Silver Fox said...

JJ, thanks for looking into this - I checked a bunch of photos and drawings online, but don't have any paleo books (well, I do have some *old* books!).

P.S. Should we be calling you JJ?

Unknown said...

Definitely too small to be a cow, which it appears has already been extablished. Unless of course it is (was) a baby cow but th calcification of the molars would indicate an adult at the time of death.

I'm a bit late on this I guess, but I'll add my vote to old one. Like mos herbivores, deer have teeth (including molars) that grow continuously throughout their lifetime. The wave-like profile of the molars in the photo indicate a consdierable time period over which this wear pattern would have developed.

Finally, I don't think that you can sex this skeleton from the photo of the skull...male deer in North America grow antlers (not horns) as adults while females do not.

The difference between antlers and horns is that horns grow continously throughout the animal's life and antlers are shed and regrown annually. This deer might have been a male in the springtime (after shed and before regrowth), or it could have been a's difficult to tell from the angle of the photo.

Cool find!

Silver Fox said...

AA - thanks for chiming in, and for a good explanation of the teeth, at least as far as this non-bone person goes. I was surprised by how many bones I was finding in this particular area; should have taken more photos - I think it's all under snow, now!