100 Years – 100 Objects: Manatee Ribs


March 9, 2009
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The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Dan, the museum’s curator of vertebrate zoology. He’s chosen a selection of objects that represent the most fascinating animals in the Museum’s collections, that we’ll be sharing here – and

on hmns.org – throughout the year.

These bones, part of the Attwater-Westheimer collection, represent the fourth specimen record of Manatee (Trichechus manatus) for the state Texas.  They were collected prior to 1929 at San Jose Island, Aransas County. 

For years they were passed over as part of a ‘vat of dolphin [Tursiops truncatus] bones’ which Attwater probably collected on the beach at San Jose Island concordant with collection of disarticulated dolphin skeletons. 

This finding was important enough for HMNS staff to publish (2001. Tx. J. Sci. 53: 292-294).

You can see larger and more detailed images of this rare specimen – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the photo gallery on hmns.org.

Dan
Authored By Dan Brooks

As curator of vertebrate zoology, Dr. Brooks has more backbone(s) than anyone at the Museum! He is recognized internationally as the authority on Cracids - the most threatened family of birds in the Americas. With an active research program studying birds and mammals of Texas and the tropics, Brooks advises several grad students internationally. At HMNS, Brooks served as project manager of the world-renowned Frensley-Graham Hall of African Wildlife, overseeing building by an incredibly diverse array of talent by some 50 individuals. He has also created and/or served as curator for various traveling exhibits, including "Cracids: on Wings of Peril".

2 responses to “100 Years – 100 Objects: Manatee Ribs”

  1. CARL PEGEL says:

    I HAVE HAD FOR 30 YEARS A VOMITING SPATULA FROM THE TAINO INDIANS,THIS IS I BELEIVE MADE FROM A MANATEE RIB,IT IS VERY ORNATE. IF YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN ONE –GOOGLE VOMITING SPATULA-IT WAS USED BY THE TAINOS TO PURGE THIER BODIES OF FOOD SO THEY WOULD BE PURE ENOUGH TO PRAY TO THIER GODS-ON THE FRONT IT HAS ONE OF THIER CROUCHED DOWN “GODS” CUT INTO AND THRU THE BONE WHERE HIS ARMS ARE-HAVING LIVED IN THE CARRIBEAN AND TRAVELED ON BOATS- I COLLECT NAUTICAL ANTIQUES-IT WAS FOUND I WAS TOLD DEEP IN A CAVE IN THE TOWN OF SAMANA ON THE COAST OF DOMINICAN REPUBLIC WHERE I USED TO LIVE,CURIOUS IF YOU HAVE EVER SEEN ANOTHER ONE LIKE IT OR CAN GIVE ME ANY INFORMATION.THIS IS A QUALITY ARTIFACT IF YOU GIVE ME AN E-MAIL ADRESS I WILL SEND YOU SOME PICTURES I HAVE. THANK YOU, CARL PEGEL

  2. Erin F says:

    Hi Carl, Thanks for your comment! You should have an email from me with more information.

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