Friday, March 9, 2012

Boiling Me Some Bones

Exam week has officially passed and my "teacher mode" has been switched from "hyper" back to "normal." The bones from the Philippine Eagle Owl pellets I collected two weeks ago have remained in their sealed plastic container on my desk... until this afternoon.

I finally had time to sit down and examine them once again. I remembered Trinket's advice to boil the bones in water to remove any dirt and debris. Seeing her online, I quickly sent her a chat message to confirm what I had to do before I went about brewing the bones. I looked for an old, unused pan from our dirty kitchen and asked permission from my mom to do what I wanted to do. After giving me an odd look, she finally agreed.

I took out the four bones I was able to collect from two separate owl pellets. From the first pellet, I was able to collect a skull and a mandible (or jaw bone.) 

The second pellet I saw had bones from an animal's extremities.

I tried my best to brush and wipe off the dirt before dropping them in the boiling water.

My bone collection in a pan of boiling water.

I let them stay in the boiling water for only a minute before I took them out and laid them on paper towels to dry. I still had to clean the inside of the skull some more but had to be extra careful since the molars attached to the skull were getting a bit loose already.

At this point, my mom and brother were looking at each other while I worked on my bones. But because they love me and have ever since known me as a bit weird, they gave me my space and left me alone =).

This is the underside of the skull before being dried completely. There were still some debris in the cavities that I had to gently poke out with a toothpick and brush off.

Can you see the molars? Some teeth were already missing when I collected this skull.

This is the mandible I collected in the same pellet as the skull. The teeth are soooo small they're amazing to see up close! And with no cavities even without brushing, mind you!

These are the bones collected from another pellet. I still cannot identify which bones they are. The shorter bones I can't be sure of but they look like forearm bones (radius and ulna.) The longer one looks like a femur to me but I can't be sure. Help!

Trinket was wonderful enough to send me a resource to help identify bones found in pellets. She shared with me a copy of a "Owl Pellet Bones Sorting Chart" from the Nature-Watch website (happiness!!!) =) Below is a portion of the chart she so generously shared with me.

Looking at the chart, I could identify the skull and mandible I collected as those of a rodent! The other bones I am still not sure of however. I can't wait to find my next owl pellets and examine what I find!



  1. haha!
    we must be kindred spirits maia! we should have a bone sharing and photo session (note: not in mcdo & not with tinggay!) when i get mine cleaned!
    waaaah... my classes are still for 2 weeks!

    1. kindred spirits nga! =)

      YES! let's do that, kahit after your class =) There are people on FB requesting photos of the bones we've collected kasi they can ID them. The radius-ulna I found looks like that of an amphibian daw!