Washed Ashore – Seal Humerus Bone

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A study of a single seal humerus bone, from the upper proximal part of the forelimb, shown from various angles to demonstrate the different appearance of each facet. Probably a Grey Seal bone. See Lisa Maye Hodgetts, PhD Thesis 1999, A manual for the identification of the post-cranial skeleton of the North Atlantic Phocid Seals (Appendix B, B.4 Humerus, B.4.1 Adult Humerus, in “Animal Bones and Human Society in the Late Younger Stone Age of Arctic Norway”, Vol.2 of 2, p 321).


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2 Replies to “Washed Ashore – Seal Humerus Bone”

  1. The seal sequence – fascinating, if slightly queasy-making (except this bone). Presumably these are natural deaths, and remains wash up all around Britain’s coastline? What predates on adult seals in Britain? RH


  2. My queasiness thresh-hold is probably higher than most because I once worked on animal carcasses – removing the skeletons for a reference bone collection. I was attached to a Faunal Remains Unit funded by what was then called The Ancient Monuments Laboratory to study animal bones, both domestic and wild, from archaeological excavations in Britain. We sourced mammal, bird and fish carcasses from wherever we could. That included items long-deceased like road kill. It was frequently challenging in the extreme to deal with the animal remains and extract the bones.

    [Later, I transferred over to the study of marine mollusc shells for the interpretation of the exploitation of marine resources in the past. A much less smelly and less dangerous occupation].

    I assumed that the seals shown in this series of blog posts were all natural deaths given the bad weather and lack of any evidence to the contrary. I am sure that similar carcasses would be washing up all around our coasts right now. Grey Seals are a top predator in British waters and not often attacked or eaten by whales and the like. The only likely predator would be human. Although Grey Seals are a protected species, it is permitted to cull them at certain times of the year or in particular circumstances.

    Deaths from periodic outbreaks of disease are well recorded. Human-related accidents have been investigated in recent years where the skin of dead seals has been cut in a continuous spiral strip from front to rear – and this has been shown the be the result of seals being sucked through certain types of ship’s propeller systems.

    My best guess for the seals shown in my photographs is accidental natural death from drowning due to the severe weather conditions at sea during December.


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