Finding Bones: The Mystery Continues

Back in June I found part of a cervical vertebra. Today my dog brings me the distal epiphysis of a femur.

What is an epiphysis? See the picture below, the epiphysis is circled (the two pictures on the left are of a cat and the two on the right are of a dog).
In humans the distal epiphysis of the femur completely with the femoral shaft by about age 24 or so. Prior to that point it presents a characteristic billowy surface that is pretty unmistakable. The bone I, or rather my dog, found has this billowed surface so we know it come from something young. It displays some signs of weathering and some of the bone is exfoliated.It also presents a rather sun bleached, dried out appearance. It also has some teeth marks from my dog. As soon as I can I will get some pictures of it and post them. In the mean time, it looks a lot like the picture below.
Like the picture, it has a fossa superior on the lateral condyle (blue line), unlike the picture it does not have the second fossa (yellow line). The above picture is that of a femur of a wolf. Now my area has been urbanized for long enough that wolves are absent. I would be surprised if we have coyote (adaptable as they are). Methinks the bone belongs to a large dog – and by extension so does the cervical vertebra* I found in June.
*Fixed some typos.

7 Responses

  1. When I was a youngster, I had a summer job on the grounds crew of the local college. One day I was down the hillside below the biology department working away with the scythe taking down shoulder-high weeds and found a femur.
    Forensic bushwhacking on my part turned up nothing else. So I reported it. Eventually the bone was traced — turned out it had landed where I found it thanks to some vertebrate anatomy student taking the final exam that June in that big building just up the hill. The students, one at a time, went into a room of tables, each with many bones on it, and required to identify each one.
    This was before air conditioning, so the windows were open.
    Sometimes bones disappeared out the windows….

  2. A few years back when I was in college I got a summer job on a building site in London. The job involved excavating a back garden in a Bloomsbury area property close to the city centre. We were nearly complete when one of the other guys dug up a bone, followed by another and so on until we had a set of ribs, some vertebrae and a couple of leg bones. The foreman was told and immediately started to panic. He thought it was the remains of a murder victim and the whole job would be shut down by the police for possibly weeks or months. A couple of calls to his superiors and were all ordered to keep quiet about it while the foremen gathered up the pieces so that he could hide them away in the waste removal skip. Now I’d been doing a course in zoology that year and it was immediately apparent that we were dealing with the remains of some domestic animal rather than human. I decided, however to just enjoy the show (mind you, it was a bit of a job keeping a straight face). I just wonder how many real murder scenes would be covered up in this way due to financial considerations.

  3. Do you have foxes where you are? They’d be the large mammal most likely to die outside in my area.

  4. I live in Texas, far enough from Dallas that there are some wide open fields in there. Still, not too many sightings of coyotes anymore, not for a long time. Even so, every so often, one does make an appearance at somebody’s back door, and gobbles up a pet cat or dog before the owner quite realizes what’s up. No foxes or wolves have been seen in a very long time, although domestic dogs of all sizes get away from owners too, of course. Then, too, people don’t like to turn in unwanted pets to the pound — excuse me, the Animal Shelter — since they have to pay a fee. So they drive far from home, drop them off in a suitably rural area, and drive back home lickety split. It’s not nice but it makes for lots of dead animals along a lot of narrow roads, bones to be dragged in later by domestic animals.

  5. One vertebra, two vertebrae.

  6. One vertebra, two vertebrae.

    D’OH, that’s what I get for hurrying.

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