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The Bell Pettigrew Museum in St Andrews


During half-term two weeks ago me and dad went out to St Andrews to see the Bell Pettigrew Museum which is part of the university there. It is one of the best museums I have been to. I had to email in advance to ask for permission to go but there wasn't a problem and the museum was open anyway. 

It was a bit tricky to find and all the rooms round it were getting painted and had workmen in, but when we were there we spent a couple of hours there and we could have spent longer.
The museum is all in one room but has more bones than most big city museums:

When I first came in the first thing I saw was this zebra and skull. More museums should put skulls next to stuffed animals, or at least a picture of the animal.

Next to it was the skull of a newborn colt:

This stuffed head was at that end. It is a gerenuk which dad was convinced was stuffed wrong, but they actually do look like that !

The indian rhino looks like it still has its original horn. Most rhino horn is replaced with replica horn because it so valuable on the black market because stupid people think they can make medicine out of it.

There was a hippo too with its awesome canine teeth.

Some specimens were pickled in jars like these spiny lobsters.

This Javan chevrotain is quite interesting for two reasons. Number one, it is the smallest of the deer family, not much bigger than a cat.

Number two, it has a very odd pelvis because the skin on top turns to bone

I quite liked this this stuffed porcupine fish because it can protect itself really well.


Turtle skulls are very distinctive and smooth. This is a green turtle.

This python skull shows it can open it's jaw so wide with it's massive quadrate bones (the upright bones on the right)

Tortoises and turtles (they are really the same thing) have their spine fused into their shells:

Below this there were are alligator and crocodile. I think the one at the back is the alligator.

Above them was a python and a garial (a fish-eating crocodile):

The pigs

This boar head looks hungry !

The babirusa is mad. It has upper canines that go the wrong way almost back to the forehead !

These baby pig skulls were sad but showed how skulls change shape in the first couple of months.

Sea mammals

This is a killer whale, which is really a dolphin, but called a whale because of their size.

Above that was a False Killer Whale, which is another dolphin which looks similar but isn't part of the same family. It's a bit unfair calling it a False Killer Whale since it's not trying to pretend to be anything. Behind it are narwhal tusks (amazing right canine teeth from narwhals)

There was a dugong which is one of my favourite skeletons:

It has the most weird looking skull you can imagine:

It has a short neck but has to have the same amount of cervical vertebrae  (neck bones) as all mammals (seven, even giraffes) so the cervical vertebrae are much thinner than the rest

The big skeletons

In the middle of the room there were four fully articulated skeletons facing each other. This was a horse:

Next to it was a camel. The poles used to articulate it look ugly. There must be a better way of doing it than this.

Opposite the camel was an ox:

And next to it was this old carthorse than worked in a quarry and which died in the 19th century:

The biggest thing in the room was this dinosaur leg donated by Andrew Carnegie, a Scot who went to America and became one of the richest men on earth:

Seals and walruses

This display was interesting because I want to rearticulate my seal later this year:

The crab eating seal is famous for having very highly developed and specialised teeth for what it eats. 

The elephant seal skull was too high to see properly but was big and solid:

This was a cut-in-half walrus skull with tusk:


Tiger skulls never get boring:

Catherine Smith at Perth Museum told me about how the Victorian's were terrible at doing stuffed animals, like this wildcat. They hadn't seen them in the wild so they tried to make them look ferocious. But wildcats are not much different to normal cats, except wildcats don't have night vision.


There were cabinets full of impressive stuffed birds from all around the world including the Scarlet Macaw.

This one here, the Lovely Cotinga, was my favourite:

Penguins are pretty amazing. They swim but they're not fish, and they don't fly but they are birds. They have massive sternums for their upper arm muscles:

But their arm is fused at the elbow so they can't bend it. That's why you never see them in coats, because they can't do up the buttons.

Look at the amount of vertebrae in this grebe's neck !

This whooper swan sternum is hollow, and was cut away to show how the windpipe goes into the hollow to make an echoey noise and make them loud birds. I found one just like this !

The ostrich has two weird looking toes, and the emu has three normal ones:

The Phorusrhacos was a scary dinosaur version of today's ratite family (emu, ostrich and cassowary) with an enormous skull that there was a cast of with what look like salt gland grooves on the top, although they probably weren't:

Canids and Hyaenidae

I could have done with this skeleton over Christmas when I was rearticulating Vulpy ! This one is of a greyhound.

Hyenas have a huge saggital crest and back teeth for crushing bones.

The African Hunting Dog is a canid which is why it has more teeth than the  hyena which is a hyaenidae:

Other cool stuff

This was a cool display just showing hand and feet bones:

The bear paw looks very similar to human hands:

Here's a brown bear skull from elsewhere in the museum:

The anteater family is the only mammal without teeth. (Chris Packham asked me that when I was filmed for Autumnwatch and I knew the answer !)

Aardvarks have massively strong arms and legs to help them find food:

This fruit bat looks like it is wearing glasses because of the way the jaw is wired:

The pika looks strange but it is the third member of the lagomorph family - which are animals with front canines like rodents, but unlike rodents they have two other 'peg teeth' behind. Rabbits and hares are in this family but the pika looks nothing like them.

This elephant looks like it was shot in the forehead. I'm not sure if the ivory is real.

Elephant teeth are big, and they slide down the jaw over the animals life, wearing out at the front and new ones growing at the back.

This Marco Polo sheep had very impressive horns:

I had never even heard of a four-horned antelope before but it looks amazing: 

This two-toed sloth was articulated really well and had one of the longest rib cages I have seen (22 pairs of ribs ?)

This Japanese Spider Crab is one of a pair. The other one is twelve miles away at the D'Arcy Thompson museum in Dundee (also amazing for bones):


The primates were in the corner, and looked awesome. This one looks like an alpha male with a massive sagittal crest.

I'm not sure that this monkey could open its jaw this wide, though:

The final primate is the man who put the museum together. James Bell Pettigrew was a Professor at the university of St Andrews who spent his life as a museum curator and naturalist. He lived at a time when   new science was being discovered about nature all the time. It must have been an amazing time to live.

Thanks to the University of St Andrews for letting me visit !

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Katcetera said...

Wow! That place is amazing! I'd love to visit a museum like that someday! Great pictures!

BoneLust said...

What a great museum visit! You saw a lot that are on my wish list. I went to the Florida Museum of Natural History last weekend and saw lots of fossilized skeletons and articulated bones. Interestingly I also saw a Phorusrhacos (AKA Terror Bird) and so I recognized yours immediately. The one I saw was a full body replica and I have to tell you it was very appropriately named! You can see the actual one I saw here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_bird

Also interesting that you mention bear paw bone structure look similar to human hands because they are often mistaken for just that at the police are called in thinking human remains were found! Download this fantastic PDF about just that. - http://www.lab.fws.gov/idnotes/IDG11_BearHumanFeet.pdf

When you showed the two-toed sloth it made me think of the 2 prehistoric ground sloths I saw at Florida Museum of Natural History. They had 5 fingers/claws! Which makes them the earliest sloths every found. They were also up to 20 feet tall. As evolution went on the grew smaller and had less fingers/claws. Pretty fascinating. Here's the big guy - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megatherium

Ossamenta said...

Well, if I'm ever in St Andrews I'll know where to go! So many cool skeletons.

Psydrache said...

Wow, it seems you photographed the whole museum. Thanks for sharing!

Jake said...

Thanks !

Jake said...

That Terror Bird looks massive and amazing.

Jake said...

I actually left a lot out. There were over 100 pictures to start with.

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