A bone from the sky – Answer to Freak of the Week #12

Our readers got pretty close to figuring this one out! There are three clues directly readable from the bone that solve the mystery of the bone that fell from the sky and almost hit the professor on the head!

1) Notice how both ends of the bone are cut in straight lines. This tells you that the bone was cut with an electric saw rather than a result of natural breakage. Thus the bone must be from a commercial cut of meat.
2) The size and shape of the bone indicates that it’s a rib. In the photo to the left, the curve of the bone and the distinct groove down the length of the bone are characteristics of the proximal (nearest to the body) end of a rib. The cross section of the bone is roughly the shape of a parallelogram, which is also distinctive for a rib. The only common meat animal with a rib that large is domestic cattle.
3) The parallel, deep grooves carved into the ends of the bone are tooth marks from the gnawing of a rodent (see photo below). Rodents will gnaw on bones to obtain nutrients and to wear down their ever-growing incisors. The gnaw marks are too large for a mouse or rat, thus are most likely from a squirrel. The fact that the bone was found in a “leafy neighborhood near campus” is another clue that it’s a more urban rodent like a tree squirrel, rather than another large rodent such as muskrat or marmot.

So, we have a cow rib that was gnawed by a squirrel and was most likely dropped from high in a tree by the squirrel or fell from it’s nest. Whether this squirrel intentionally tried to hit this particular professor with the bone is purely conjecture…

Posted February 25, 2014

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