Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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Carboniferous

Examples of Surface Damage to Modern Bones

Visual Catalogue - in Development – April 23, 2007


Anna K. Behrensmeyer

Department of Paleobiology
NMNH, Smithsonian Institution
behrensaATsi.edu

 

Note: Examples provided below have not yet been formally published and are for informal reference only. Contact Dr. Behrensmeyer for permission to use.

 

Sub-aquaeus pitting – possible insect and/or chemical damage

Goat jaw that was introduced to the East Fork River, Wyoming, in the Spring of 1974. It was collected in the summer of 1977 after traveling 1029 meters downstream. When found, the pitted side was up and had algae growing on it. The pitting may be from acid etching or from invertebrates that grazed on the algae. The lower side is much less pitted. The jaw probably moved mainly by sliding on its lingual side. The delicate coronoid and symphysis were only slightly abraded after over a kilometer of transport in association with a sand – fine gravel bedload. The jaw was probably submerged throughout its 3-year journey (there is only minor, weathering stage 1 cracking on the lingual side, and this probably was present before the experiment began). A. K. Behrensmeyer – East Fork Bone Transport Project; specimen stored at NMNH.

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Termite Damage

 

termite damage

termite damage


Amboseli Park, Kenya, 1975. Termite damage on overturned partial elephant pelvis, showing remnants of the soil covering that termites construct over their excavated tunnels. Enlargement shows living termite in one of the excavated areas; white area with hole is a newly chewed place on the bone surface. A. K. Behrensmeyer: Amboseli Bone Project

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Termite Damage

 

Amboseli Park, Kenya, 1975. Cow cranium riddled by termites, which enlarged the sinuses supporting the horn cores and generally hollowed out most of the top of the skull. They seem to have chewed some areas from the inside out, others (e.g., on the horn cores) from the outside in. It is likely that the skull was partially covered with “carton” – i.e., soil-based covering that termites construct over channels and runs, but this was washed off by rains. It appears that the termites often leave a thin layer of bone rather than removing it all – perhaps to help as a protective barrier against moisture loss or predation. A. K. Behrensmeyer: Amboseli Bone Project; Specimen stored at NMNH.

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Termite Damage

 

Amboseli Park, Kenya, 2003. Termite damage on Grant’s Gazelle horncore, showing remnants of the soil covering that termites construct over their excavated tunnels. Note overhanging rims on the excavated channels – this is typical of termite damage in Amboseli. Note: the linear trail toward the right end of the horncore is stained only by the dirt used to cover the termite trail, not excavated below the original surface of the bone. A. K. Behrensmeyer: Amboseli Bone Project; specimen stored at NMNH

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Termite Damage

 

Amboseli Park, Kenya, 2004. Termite damaged equid metapodial from Predation Arena 2 (in a grassland habitat). Bone is weathered to Stage 3-4; it is difficult to determine when the termite damage occurred relative to this weathering but some damage clearly occurred after the bone was somewhat weathered, since cracks terminate at the burrow edges. Note rootlets and remnants of vegetation detritus in the burrows, also overhanging edges and smooth interior contours. A. K. Behrensmeyer: Amboseli Bone Project; specimen stored at NMNH.

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Termite Damage

 

Amboseli Park, 2003. T8-3-10 Cape Buffalo femur with termite damage and soil-covered trails that were on the underside of the bone before it was turned over. Some of the surface bone had been excavated and damaged by the termites in association with these trails. A. K. Behrensmeyer: Amboseli Bone Project

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Insect Damage

 

Amboseli Park, Kenya, 2004. Beetles (dead) inside a fragment of broken bovid scapula – which was inadvertently run over by our field vehicle. The beetles had chewed through the cancellous bone. They may have died from dehydration or heat not long before we ran over their bone. A. K. Behrensmeyer: Amboseli Bone Project; specimen stored at NMNH.

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