Case no. 002 – The Bone in the Box


Thats right!  We’ve got our second mystery to solve.  One of my readers has some questions that need answering.

This story begins two nights ago.  Nathan came home carrying a box with a golden bow on top.  My friend, Sarah* was visiting at the time.  She saw him get out of his car with a “present” under his arm, and began giggling about how he was the sweetest man.  Something didn’t smell right to me (literally), so I kept my excitement in check.  Nathan put his things down, casually walked to the counter where we were both stationed, cutting vegetables for a salad, and handed me the box.  The expression on his face did not say ‘I got you a present’.  It said, ‘You’re going to love this’.

Inside the box, tucked in blood-red tissue paper, was a bone.  Nathan explained, “What animal is it?  Where did it come from on the animal body?  One of your readers wants to know.”  I should include here that Sarah is a vegan, an animal lover, and grew up in the city.   She doesn’t read my blog, so there was no contextual understanding.  I could tell that she was trying to decide whether country folk really thought that giving pieces of dead animals was considered sweet, or whether Nathan was playing a gruesome prank on one, or both of us.  I was thrilled.

“Excellent!  We’ll have to get started on this right away!”  I shouted.  Sarah put down her vegetable cutting knife and walked out of the kitchen.

The bone looks like this:

Before delving into my investigation, I would like to beef up my credentials in regards to this particular mystery.  I am a fan of the tv show Bones, which, for those of you who don’t know, makes me very qualified to complete a forensic anthropological examination of this bone.  If actors can figure out how a guy died based on the striations on his pinky finger bone (distal phalanx), I should have no problem solving this mystery.  So, I will go above and beyond my reader’s expectations.  Instead of just determining the species and providing a bone identification, I will determine cause of death.

With careful imprecision, I measured the bone’s length and width.  I don’t have a ruler, but I do have a very keen eye^.  Three inches long, 3/8 inches wide**.  It’s obvious isn’t it?  Opossum**.  The best part?  It’s the humorus** bone!

Things become a little more complicated when trying to suss out the cause of death.  As you can see by the faint kerf marks in the photo above, and the… (This bone really stinks.  I’m having a difficult time concentrating.  For future reference, always soak a bone in bleach before you send it to me.) …and the teeth marks, this bone has been gnawed by a rodent.  I checked into the dentition of squirrels, their teeth would have left much larger scrapes, which leaves mice.

I have personally done battle with an opossum.  I know for a fact that they cannot be taken down by a mouse.  I had to use Argon gas, a trashcan, and a machete to best one of these things (don’t ask).  An opossum would rip the face from a mouse in about two seconds, then go back to eating garbage like nothing ever happened.  So how did it die?

Osteoporosis, followed by tail failure.  Sure, this degenerative bone disease is treatable in humans, but when an opossum falls ill with weak bones, there’s little that can be done.  Judging by the slight bone bruising, I would say that this opossum fell from six to eight feet, probably when it’s tail failed (releasing it from it’s upside-down perch), struck it’s degenerating skull and humorus bone on a rock, and never woke again.

If I have contracted some kind of communicable disease from handling this bone, I am not going to be happy about it.  But, I would like to thank my reader for participating.

*All names have been changed to disguise the innocent


**Wild speculation.


7 responses »

      • You’re probably right. I just wanted the chance to use the word baculum. I may have had a fellow wildlife friend who had one on a necklace. That’s a blog for another time.

  1. Sarah? That’s the kind of person who would date a Doug. And you may do well to recall that she’s a confirmed wiz at internet stalking. Keen eye? I’d call that a ** long before a ^, and I’d be more inclined to name it a #

    #extremely optimistic interpretation

  2. Ok, it’s a long shot, but I’m guessing you’re right about it being a humerus, or else a femur, but in either case, the long bone of a limb some animal walked on. The way it tries to bifurcate really got me wondering. I got to thinking about the condyles in human femurs and the patella, and how this bone kind of looks like that, only with the patella fused and fin-like. If we can say the different walking style and the lack knee-straightening in its gait means some animal doesn’t need a mobile patella and can instead just use a boney fin, as pictured (not that I know or am looking this up) then this looks like a good upper leg bone. Or maybe it’s a rib bone of some flat-chested animal?

  3. Sarah and Doug happen to be people worth protecting with anonymity…poorly disguised as it may be. I’ll keep you posted regarding bone identification. I think the reader who sent this bone may have some insider information. He was testing my abilities as a detective before revealing everything about the specimen.

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