The Mysterious Bones in All of Us

Okay maybe we can have a fun, meaningless contest here on the blog, eh? Who is the first to identify this bone? The winner gets a hot tub weekend with the elusive Dr. Electro who is a frequent guest of the blog, who I just assume, for some reason, has a hot tub.

I found this bone at a terminal moraine in a granite-strewn flood plane between Wyoming and Montana. I don’t know if that provides much of a hint… but maybe.

I’ll tell you the process I went through… I was lucky enough to spend a few days with Jack Horner at this really unexpected scientific and libertarian conference. I figured that he would know what the bone was, which, of course, he did, but he was unwilling to answer my simple question. He made me reason it out for a few days…and look for more bones. Jack has a very interesting way of teaching people things… and most of what I ended up learning had very little to do with the bone itself.

Here are a few other hints that are not really much good at all. That is my hand holding it. As for the relative size of my hands, I can tell you confidently that I have a man-hands that can tear apart lobster like Jerry’s girlfriend. Also, between thinking sessions, we used it as a marker for bocce-ball, and it never splintered or shattered.

The Mysterious Bones in All of Us

  • I am guessing it is from a buffalo.?

  • jayniN

    its a vetebra obviously (i say that, now realizing that if its not im gonna feel uber-dumb) and by size id say buffalo(or is it bison here) or a moose

  • buffalo verterbra (just to jump on the bandwagon with jayniN b/c he/she’s right)

  • Matt T

    yep, 99% sure that’s a buffalo vertebra.

  • Matt T

    And out of curiosity, where was your header picture taken at? (The one with the road and the sun on the left.) I’ve been to Montana/Wyoming and that looks familiar.

  • Matt T

    Wow, don’t know my left from right, haha. I meant the sun is on the RIGHT side of the photo. Gotta get some sleep…

  • It’s clearly a trick, this is a mouse bone and you must have hands like a wee school girl not a lobster ripping caveman!

  • I reckon I can go one further, tailbone or coccyx. Of which animal I’m not sure, but buffalo would be a good guess!

    If I’m Trey, pop over to my photoblog and drop me a nice comment!

  • Sorry, me again, last sentence should have said:

    If I’m right, pop over to my photoblog and drop me a nice comment!


  • I’d go with a horse vertebra.

  • Gail

    Bison sounds right to me considering where you found it. What an interesting experience for you to have met Jack Horner. Thanks for the fun!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I would say the pelvic bones

  • Tiny Pixels

    After staring for a very long time, I’m venturing a well-educated guess. . . it’s from an alien fish.

    Failing that, how about the sternum?

  • Tiny Pixels

    After more thought, maybe it’s not the alien fish, it’s the escapees from Roswell.

    Or the coccyx.

  • glenn hemminger

    Most likely a coccyx from a deer or antelope.

  • DEE

    Likes of good guesses. Somebody in this world must know.

  • Heather

    I’m thinking elk, antelope, or mule deer- maybe cow- definitely a vertebra- the bone itself hasn’t been out in the elements all that long, so that sorta rules out buffalo (they’re just not as common these days, and bones from them are usually aged more than that one, when you run across ’em!)- neat find!

    BTW, thank you for all of the wonderful photography- I peek at your pics every day, and just love it! Gives me a “window to the world”, as I do my work at the tractor store! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Purple Mark

    Having lived in the area, I would say that it’s either a Wild Horse
    or antelope’s vertabrae. Face it people the days of the buffalo
    roaming are long gone!

  • HuhWhatOh

    i don’t know what bone that is, but to answer Matt T the header picture is from Iceland. I had it as my background for a while.

  • Mike

    It’s elk vertebrae im 100% sure

  • tim keller

    i am gonna go with a elk skull just to be different ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Bear lumbar vertebra.

  • Joe

    Must be from a Ram

  • Dr. Electro

    I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but the hot tub is closed indefinitely due to the total lack of one. I’m sorry. I guess you can take me to lunch instead. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I guess that is a thoracic vertebra from a rather large ungulate. Most likely bison or cattle.

  • Sunshine
  • Haha fun guesses from everyone… Dr. Electro busts in the with sweet ungulate word! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ll put the answer later tonight around midnight CST when I post the daily new photo! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • jayniN

    purple mark,
    dont say the days of the roaming buffalo are dead! cuz that shoots to crap all the romantic imagery of the american plains that ive grown up loving!

  • Scott

    I think it is a cervical vertebrae from an elk. It could be from another ungulate like an antelope or mule deer, but I do not think your hand is that small.

  • Rutledge

    Regarding the “bone” – Actually this is a very rare prototoy dating back to roughly 7,834 BC (June). It originated in what is now the Planes area of the US. For those Asians who crossed the land-bridge but then returned to Asia, the prototype became the “shiruken,” a star-shaped throwing weapon. For those who stayed and mixed with late-comer Europeans, this ingenious device took a more pragmatic route of development, and became the modern-day “frisbee.” (The ball-shaped projection, which used to house a mechanical brain, is a dead give-away.)


  • Rutledge

    Note to he who just read my answer and called: Yes, I know the difference between
    “Planes” and “Plains.” This was just my way of noting that the only Planes area of the US back then was O’Hare, but did not want people to think I meant it was a rabbit-like or lagamorph bone. Sheesh.

  • tim keller

    dang stinck you dont have a hot tub dr electro there great:)

  • Could it have been from a giant chicken???

  • I’m not going to bother with a guess but I will say I love Seinfeld. He’s on right now!

  • tim keller

    hadn’t thought of that

  • ftw

    The number of responses is amazing. Great competition Tre, but as an accountant who almost became a pharmacist I want to agree with Rutledge but I think it’s just a vertebrae from a very big old animal. T-REX!!!

  • ftw

    Sorry about the mis-spell on your name Tratcliff. Can’t believe I did that.

  • Susan

    Ok so we’re all dying to know…..what is it???? Tell us how you figured it out too!

  • DEE

    Wow! The responses are great!

  • Ha !

    The responses are really great… Glad to see all the readers here are as creative and intuitive as I expected!

    Rutledge certainly gets an honorable mention for his answer and his answer re-explanation.

    I wish I could respond to everyone’s comments (as usual!) — but allow me to pick a few at random.

    – Matt T – This was taken at a private ranch in Montana, looking at the northern rockies

    – Tiny Pixels – Yes it is very alien. I almost entitled this “The Alien Bone that…” to throw people off. It would not have thrown you off, though.

    – Sunshine and JayniN – Yes there are no wild buffalo there. Ted Turner has a ranch very close by that is huge and has thousands of buffalo. They aren’t quite wild, but they have a massive swath of land to be wild in.

    – DEE – yes I agree!

    The Answer:
    Elk Vertebra ! The first person that KINDA got the answer was Heather, who threw in a couple of other animals to spread her risk. The 100% Babe Ruth calling shot came from Mike! So, both of you can get:

    The Prize:
    Since Dr. Electro was not kind enough to get a blow-up pool with hot water to serve as a hot tub, then we will need another volunteer!

    How I was forced to figure it out:
    I really was not sure at all in the beginning. It’s obviously not a carpal or arm/leg bone. It’s too strange to be part of the skull, so I figured it was something in the hips, spines, or some special part that connected the spine to the head or the sternum.

    I think Jack told me “there’s always more bones”. And, of course, I thought that was an obvious statement that gave me no clue until I figured out he meant I should go find a lot more bones. So as I spent a few days running around taking photos, I’d pick up bones. I found about 4 or 5 that looked like this. The balls and sockets fit together perfectly, then looking like a spine. So after that was figured out, I had to assume the sizes of the various vertebra were from all the animals around there, like were mentioned. The elk seemed to fit the bill… (only after MANY wrong ideas I floated across to Jack, who kind of scowled at my continued paltry attempts).

    A few months later, I was with Jack again in the badlands. We were walking along this ridge, and then he stuck his hand under a bush and pulled out an 80-million-year-old bone.

    Holding it up, he uttered, “Hmmm. This is a vertebra from a hadrosaur.” He nonchalantly handed it to me for a keepsake… I almost dropped it in shock of it’s age and its immediate identification!

  • Claire

    This was a good one. Had I been on it yesterday, I would have suggested elk vertebrae. However, I have my own hot tub and perhaps needed better incentive! Sorry…not volunteering it as a prize. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • hehe Claire – yes you would have gotten it for sure. I figured you had a hot tub like your dad – it’s one of the first things I would get if I lived there too!

  • tim keller

    i was gonna guess that but obviously i didnt and i am not a sore loser i seriously was

  • The vertebral column is made up of 26 bones that provide axial support to the trunk. The vertebral column provides protection to the spinal cord that runs through its central cavity. Between each vertebra is an intervertebral disk. The disks are filled with a gelatinous substance, called the nucleus pulposus, which provides cushioning to the spinal column. The annulus fibrosus is a fibrocartilaginous ring that surrounds the nucleus pulposus, which keeps the nucleus pulposus in tact when forces are applied to the spinal column. The intervertebral disks allow the vertebral column to be flexible and act as shock absorbers during everyday activities such as walking, running and jumping.

  • tim keller

    why do we need to know that

  • bob smith

    ha ha, tim keller is reading twilight
    p.s. what straight person reads twilight?
    p.p.s. tim and gay both have 3 letters
    p.p.p.s. tim is a communist

  • bob smith

    i was just kidding about that

  • tim keller

    that is my friend he is crazy pay no attention Please

  • ….thoracic spinal vertebrafrom a buffalo
    Great site. Came here from

  • OK, since no one else has stepped up with a prize offer – Heather and Mike: How ยดbout a nice dinner and private city tour of Quito, Ecuadorยดs capital? Problem is you’ll have to get yourselves down here…
    Good job!

  • ludwig

    It’s a lombar vertebra from a human being!

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