Mystery remains

Steve O'Shea

TONMO Supporter
Staff member
Nov 19, 2002
I've received the following images from Sue Michelsen-Heath, Curator - Natural and Interactive Sciences, Otago Museum, Dunedin, New Zealand, to identify, but I cannot.

I would definitely call them vertebrate of some description (rather than the skeletal remains of a gorgonian, particularly Keratoisis sp. (Family Isididae)), but vertebrate skeletal morphology is past me.

Is anyone online able to shed any light on this thing?



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They look amphicelous to me, but I can forward the pictures to a fish person I know. I assume they were washed up on a beach somewhere in NZ?

cthulhu77 said:
It's not Sir Um... is it ???

..... or the remains of WK's finger?

Funny you should suggest turtle, cuttlegirl, as Matt has pm'd me the same thing.
That sounds like a really good guess. Check out:
for an extremely detailed account of sea turtle anatomy.

Under the skeletal anatomy there are pictures of the vertebrae and I don't think they really match the pictures Steve posted, unfortunately. The vertebrae look much more complicated, more like our own. I couldn't find any pictures of nerves coming out of a turtle spinal cord, to possibly explain what the big tubes coming out of the bones in the pictures were. Hmmm...very interesting. Do we know whether it just washed ashore or was dragged up in a trawl?



I was a little unsure about what I posted above as the previous website never explicitly stated which part the cervical vertebrae were (since the pictures included an atlas vertebrae I figured it was just the whole backbone, which in retrospect was silly as it only had 7 bones in it which wouldn't really be enough. Interesting factoid: humans and giraffe, and I guess sea turtles as well now, all have the same number of bones in their neck, 7!).
Here: has an overall break down of the skeletal system. Though it is simple, it shows that the cervial vertebrae go from the head to the shell. While the vertebrae passes under the shell, it looks like the bone structure becomes very different. Coming out of the shell, it again turns more complicated to form the caudal vertebrae (I think). Pictures of the caudal vertebrae can be seen in the first link.

So I take back what I have said, this could be the vertebrae from underneith the shell of a sea turtle. Now the question is, can the vertebrae become detached from the shell without coming apart? Very fascinating!

I just heard back from my friend at Stony Brook. Her and her prof both say its a mammalian sternum. On the right-hand side is the manubrium with attachment points on the sides for the clavicles The curlies are the cartilagenous remains of the ribs. No clue what mammal.

Here's another one. The maximum dimension of the bone is 87mm; it's been trawled from rather shallow depth (


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