OsteoID is a free, practical and easy-to-use online tool in which an individual can use simple measurements and morphological information to determine:
- whether a bone is potentially human, and
- if it is non-human, to which animal species does it belong.
High-quality photographs will guide the user through choosing the correct bony element (e.g., humerus). Once the bone is identified, the user can input basic measurements (e.g., maximum length), and the program will return high-quality color photographs of the potential species it could be (based on size) for visual comparison and identification. Links to three-dimensional (3D) surface models will also be made available when possible, enabling 3D comparisons and allowing people to build their own virtual comparative collections, or print the 3D models.
Anyone! OsteoID was developed with a National Institute of Justice Grant (2018-DU-BX-0229), aimed at providing a tool that forensic anthropologists, medico-legal death investigators, crime scene personnel, coroners, medical examiners, and law enforcement could use to assist in differentiating forensically significant human remains from non-human animal remains and facilitate species identification. However, it is available to EVERYONE! Bioarchaeologists, zooarchaeologists, biologists and veterinarians (amongst others) may find it useful. It is also open to the public for anyone that is curious about a bone they may have found or want to learn more about comparative osteology. Of course, if any remains found are suspected to be human in origin, please contact your local law enforcement agencies immediately.
The OsteoID database contains measurements and photos from 28 species, including humans, mammals, birds, and turtles. The animal species were chosen based on those commonly encountered in the U.S., and those that were available for measurement at museum collections. It is possible that the bone you found may belong to a species NOT represented in the database! That is why it is important to visually compare the bone found with the photographs to determine whether they are a match and not to depend solely on the measurement results.
The measurements included in the database are from adult or developmentally mature specimens. In other words, the epiphyses (ends of the bones near the joints) are fused on and the bone growth is mostly complete. If the bone you found belongs to a juvenile, the size may not match its species (as it still has to grow). Visual comparisons can still be made with the photographs, but you will want to keep in mind that your specimen may not have the epiphyses attached, and thus may look different and be more challenging to identify.
The OsteoID database contains measurements mostly from the long bone elements, including: Femur, Humerus, Tibia, Fibula, Radius, Ulna, and Fused Metapodials (metacarpals and metatarsals in hoofed animals). A few measurements are also included for the Scapula, Sacrum, and Os Coxae (pelvis). Photos are available of additional elements, but do not have accompanying measurements – thus identifications for those elements will have to be based solely on visual comparisons.
We have tried to capture a range of sizes within each species, but it is still possible that you may have a larger or smaller individual than what is represented in the database. If that occurs and you are confident it belongs to one of the included species, please contact the developers at OSTEOIDboneID@gmail.com so that we can confirm and update our databases if necessary. To capture the highest degree of variation, the OsteoID tool returns images based on either the observed range of measurements (smallest to largest) or the 95% confidence interval calculated from the measurements, which ever interval is larger. However, some species (e.g., domestic dogs) are extremely variable in size which increases the likelihood that your bone may be outside of the range of our measurements.
If there is a possibility that remains may be human in origin, please contact your local law enforcement agencies. It is best to leave any human remains exactly as they were found.
Mammals: Humans, Black Bear, Brown Bear, Cow, Elk, Moose, White-Tailed Deer, Mule Deer, Pig, Horse, Sheep, Goat, Coyote, Wolf, Domestic Dog, Domestic Cat, Grey Fox, Red Fox, Racoon, Opossum, Rabbit
Birds: Golden Eagle, Goose, Chicken, Duck, Turkey
Turtles: Box Turtle, Snapping Turtle
This project was supported by Award No. 2018-DU-BX-0229, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.
Des Moines University has also supported the development of OsteoID and funds the up-keep of the web tool
We would like to thank the National Institute of Justice for funding the development of OsteoID, and Des Moines University for its ongoing support. Thanks to all the museum curators that facilitated access. A special thanks to the following individuals who contributed their time or data to the project: M. Schuyler Litten, Andrea Clendaniel, Elizabeth Dougher, Merna Mohamed, Noah Skantz, Nathan Kuttickat, Alexandra Klales, Michael Kenyhercz, Dennis Dirkmaat, Julie Meachen, Chelsea Cataldo-Ramirez and Christopher Milensky. Specimen data and photographs were collected from: Des Moines University, Mercyhurst University, Washburn University, University of California - Davis, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, and the American Museum of Natural History. Some metric data were also taken from published articles (citations included with data file accessible from the "Additional Resources" tab). Finally, thank you to Erin Menardi, the Web Developer who collaborated with the PIs in creating this online tool.
PI: Heather Garvin, PhD, D-ABFA – Dr. Garvin is board-certified forensic anthropologist (through the American Board of Forensic Anthropology) and an Associate Professor of Anatomy at Des Moines University.
Co-PI: Rachel Dunn, PhD – Dr. Dunn is a vertebrate paleontologist specializing in the appendicular skeleton of mammals and an Associate Professor of Anatomy at Des Moines University.
Co-PI: Sabrina Sholts, PhD – Dr. Sholts is a biological anthropologist and the Curator of Biological Anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
If you have questions, please contact the research team at OSTEOIDboneID@gmail.com.