I used to think that if I found an animal skeleton all the bones would be in the right order. But in most of the skeletons I've found the bones are all jumbled up, and often bones are missing. That means that if we want to know more about the animal, we have to try to put the pieces back together. Here are bones of a fox that I collected. When I put names to my skeletons, I called this one Harry. I found the skull first of all, then we looked harder, and we found some other bones which were buried beside it.
Here are the bones we found. You can see they were all jumbled up when we brought them home. Different types of bones have different shapes, so then we begin sorting them out. Even though we this was the first fox skeleton we brought back, we could see that a lot of the bones were just the same as a deer or a rabbit. We began by sorting them into different piles.
These were what the different types of bones were:
- This is a shoulder blade, or scapula. These are what the front legs are attached to. We only found one of these.
- This is the atlas, the last neck bone, the one next to the skull.
- These are the ribs. I think, but an not sure, that a fox has
12nine pairs of ribs (based on the picture on this website). We only found 15 ribs in total, so there were at least three that we missed.
- These are the neck bones. In rabbits, deer and foxes, these bones are thick and strong, because they have to support the head. Scientists call these the cervical vertebrae, but if you say neck vertebrae, they know what you mean.
- These are the bits of the spine that go from the base of the neck, down the shoulders to the middle of the back. They have an extra bit pointing away from the body. The ribs attach to these vertebrae. These parts of the spine are called the thoracic vertebrae.
- These vertebrae are part of the lower back, going towards the hips. They have little sticky out bits on either side, pointing back towards the body, like tiny ribs.
- These little thin bones were part of the tail.
Here are some of the bones that we didn't find:
- We didn't find the bottom jaws. That was a shame because skulls look brilliant on my shelves when they have their lower jaws.
- We didn't find any of the legs. We only found one shoulder blade.
- We were missing parts of the tail and ribs, and a couple of bits of the spine.
- We didn't find the pelvis, which was odd. The pelvis is a very big bone.
This is what it looked like when we put the bones back in the right order:
Now I can see how big the fox was in real life. It measured about 50cm from the atlas at one end of the spine to the start of the tail. We don't know how long the tail was, but normally the tail is about two-thirds the length of the body and head. The skull is 14½cm long, and I think there are three spine bones missing, so overall, from nose to the beginning of the tail, it would be about 65cm long. The BBC website says that the length of a fox head and body is usually between 50cm and 90cm, and the National Geographic website says about the same, but maybe a bit smaller. So it looks like this was an adult fox, but maybe a bit on the small side. Maybe it was a young adult.
Here's the skull by itself.
The skull feels different to a deer or a rabbit. It feels smoother and shinier. The eye sockets are different, and the teeth are very different. We didn't find all the teeth, and we were missing one of the pre molars, one of the big canines, and four of the top incisors. Otherwise, the skull is in very good condition. Of the skulls that I have, this is my favourite.
The skull is 14½cm long. This website says a bit more about red fox skulls, and says the male skull is bigger than the female skull, and that this person's biggest male fox skull is 15cm long. That makes think that the one I have is for a young adult male fox.
Here's a picture of a fox that my Daddy took:
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