Sky whale skeletons part II

Part II of the sky whale mini series features a 19 m long fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) skeleton which is situated south of the airport of Salinas del Carmen at Fuerteventura.


Fin whale (Baleanoptera physalis) skeleton near Salinas del Carmen, Fuerteventura

As you can see the skeleton, as well as those of the other whales, has an additional artifical fluke.


If you look at the ribcage, keep in mind that the expandable pouch fully extends the length of the ribs up to the abdominal area. That´s just incredibly odd. Try to imaginre your floor of mouth could expand as a huge baloon-like structure down to your navel. It´s just crazy.


A rare view of the skull and neck area. You can see the foraminae on the base of the jaw and the giant atlas vertebra.


And another one photo:



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Sky whale skeletons part I

Cetaceans are doubtless some of the most marvelous and most fantastic mammals which ever evolved. Nearly everything on them is weird by normal standards, even more so if you look at all the incredible anatomical adaptions of the original mammal bauplan.

One of th best ways to see this, is to take a look at a full whale skeleton, and one of the best places to see some of them is Fuerteventura. There are several mounted skeletons on various part of this small Canary island. One of the most impressive ones is from a 15 m long sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), which beached at Matas Blancas in 2005. Its skeleton is now on display near the lighthouse of Avenida del Saladar.


Sperm whale skeleton (Physeter macrocephalus) at Solano Matorral, Fuerteventura

Full mounted skeletons of big whales are for obvious reasons rarely exhibited in museums, and if they are, they are often surrounded by a lot of other exponates or not visible from all directions. Not so in this case. You can even walke below some of the larger cetacean skeletons.

Here a photo which shows the huge cranial vault for the spermaceti organ:


Situated on high columns in front of the sky, they look nearly a bit like bizarre flying sky beasts.


Another photo of the skull, which shows the nearly ridiculously thin mandible of the largest predatory mammal which ever lived.


And from below:



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Shit happens part VIII – even more antler accidents

This will be – at least so far- the last post of the shit happens-series. Not surprisingly the photos come again from Danish Museum for Hunting and Forestry at Hørsholm.

The featured luckless individuals are again roe deer (Capreolus capreolus).


Roebucks with entangled antlers

The roebuck on the left has an unusually massive and gnarly pair of antlers. Such accidents are probably also a selective force against the evolution of especially elaborate antler shapes among deers.


And last but not least some more antler accidents of roebucks:


More roebuck accidents

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Shit happens part VII – disastrous missteps

The series comes gradually to its end. Once again this part includes deer, in this case roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), the most successful and in many areas also the last wild ruminant of Europe. Just again the featured cases come from the amazing collection of the Danish Museum for Hunting and Forestry at Hørsholm. 

Those cases show some quite disastrous missteps of roe deers which had their hooves stuck in in holes.


Roe deer hoof stuck in knothole

Another example which shows a roedeer which had one of its hooves stuck in a metal ring:



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Shit happens part VI – crowned with barbed wire

Deer antlers are in my opinion one of the most bizarre organs among all mammals. A pair of bones sometimes surpassing the mass of the limb bones which grows annually in extremely short time out of the skull just to quickly nectrotize and still stay attached on the head for the rest of the season until it gets lost via some sort of autotomie. That´s just incredibly odd in every aspect, even more so for a mammal.

But having such an elaborate structure on the head can also lead to really stupid accidents as shown in part I of the series. Another example of an antler-related accident is this quite capital pair of antlers from a museum of the Polish Academy of Sciences at Popielno. This stag had its antlers fully entangled into barbed wire:

Red deer antlers entangled into barbed wire.

Red deer antlers entangled into barbed wire. Museum of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Popielno

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Shit happens part V – grasped by killer mussels

Bivalves are usually not the kind of animals which are regarded as potentially dangerous. But they can actually cause a lot of trouble or even fatal accidents if they accidentally grasp other beings with their shells. One of this cases is shown here, a quite unfortunate black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) which had its feet caught between the shells of a freshwater mussel. The mussels in question could be a swan mussel (Anodonta cygnea) or another Anodonta species. Like so many other cases from the „shit happens“- series, this photo was taken at the Danish Museum for Hunting and Forestry at Hørsholm.


Black-headed gull caught by a mussel

I sadly don´t know more about the background of this case, for example if the gull was found dead or if it managed to come somehow out of the water with the mussel crasped on its legs. Similar cases of birds getting caught with their bills in mussels are well recorded, and Darren Naish wrote a very interesting blogpost about this topic at Tetrapod Zoology, including hypothetical accidents involving pterosaurs and giant prehistoric clams like Platyceramus.

Besides waterfowl, newts can be also highly affected by clam-related accidents. In one study which involved the alpine newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris) population of a pond in Austria, 78 of 182 caught specimens had clams attached. In most cases this clams, which belonged to a Sphaerium-species, were attached to the limbs, in one case even on the mandible. Of the 78 clam-plaqued newts 18 had even two clams attached at once, and two other specimens had even three. This clams were so tightly attached on the newts that it was not possible to remove them without crushing the shells or harming the newts. One try resulted in the accidental amputantion of a newt´s phalange. In 15 newts missing toes were recorded, which were most probably also a result of clam-accidents.

There are also stories of giant clams of the genus Tridacna, which involve lethal accidents of pearl divers. The question remains how many of them are true and not just legends, but it seems really not fully unreasonable that such accidents could have happened on occasion. The famous diving pioneer and marine biologist Hans Hass once made an experiment to test this idea. He used the leg of a window dummy which was filled with plaster and pushed it between the shells of a giant clam. The shells of the giant bivalve closed immediately, and it was fully impossible to remove the artificial leg. They had to haul the whole giant clam out of the water and cut the closing muscles to get the leg free. Something like this could theoretically really happen to people wading in the shallow water of coral reefs. Here are some photos of this experiment from the book In unberührte Tiefen (1971) by Hans Hass:

Artificial leg caught in giant clam (Tridacna gigas). Photos from "In unberührten Tiefen" by Hans Hass.

Artificial leg in giant clam (Tridacna gigas). Photos from „In unberührte Tiefen“ by Hans Hass.

So possibly the now somewhat outdated German synonym „Mördermuschel“ (killer clam) for the large Tridacna species is not fully inappropriate.

See more about giant clams on Bestiarium here.

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Shit happens part IV – a barbel muzzled with a rubber ring

A lot of mischance can happen to tetrapods, but non-tetrdapod vertebrates are also not immune towards misadventures. One example for this is this common barbel (Barbus barbus) from the exhibition of the Deutsches Jagd-und Fichereimuseum (German Hunting and Fishing Museum) at Munich, which was found with its mouth muzzled with a rubber ring:

Common barbel with mouth caught in rubber ring.

Common barbel with mouth caught in rubber ring.

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Shit happens part III – a tufted duck with a rubber ring girdle

Shit happens not only to mammals, but to birds as well. This poor tufted duck (Aythya fuligula) somehow managed to put a rubber ring over its body.


Tufted duck (Aythya fuligula) caught in rubber ring

I wonder if this possibly already happened when the duck was still not full-grown or if it was already full-grown. Like the last photos this specimen was also photographed at the Danish Museum for Hunting and Forestry at Hørsholm.

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Shit happens part II – deadlock in a tree hole

This series will feature several kinds of accidents which include deer. So I make a break and go on with a marten. Like in the antlers from the first part of the series, the specimen comes from the Danish Museum for Hunting and Forestry at Hørsholm. It is a marten which was found halfway into a hollow tree trunk.

marten which got stuck in a tree hole

marten which got stuck in a tree hole

A close up of the two photos which show the original finding place:


And another one:


And for those of you who can read Danish a close-up of the information board:


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Shit happens part I – when antlers get stuck and grown into trees

Sometimes animals – like humans -have just really bad luck and come into situations which lead to weird handicaps or even bizarre deaths. In this series I want to show some of those cases.

Many of them are from one of my all-time-favourite museums, the Danish Museum for Hunting and Forestry at Hørsholm. This museum has besides many other great things one of the largest collections of freak animals I have ever seen, like unusual hybrids, various mutations and pathologies and many more. One of the more remarkable pieces on exhibit is a red deer cranium found grown with its antlers into a tree:

Red deer antlers grown into tree, Danish Museum for Hunting and Forestry, Hørsholm

Another angle:


Close-up of the ingrown part of the antler:


It seems the deer became entangled with its left antler crown in the fork of a branch. It could not free itself and died anytime, and the antler with the skull still attached was grown into the wood when the tree was growing over the following years.

Here is also an old description of this particular case and another similar one:


The original description:


And the close-up of the depiction:

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