- Did you use the correct measurement units?
- Did you take the measurements correctly (see “Using OsteoID” page)?
- Is the specimen skeletally mature? I.e., are the ends of the bones fused on fully? If the ends of the bones don’t have a smooth articular (joint surface), but instead have a series of furrows and ridges, then the epiphyses (ends of the bones) are not fused on. Even if the epiphyses are connected to the bone shaft, if there is a visible gap still between them it means that the animal was not done growing. Try scrolling through the images instead of using the measurements.
- Maybe you started off with the wrong element. RESET and use your measurement to search all elements.
- Maybe you forgot to RESET from your last search. Think of the program as having “memory”, each time it takes a new measurement or new search term as an added step in the same search. To clear any of those filters, you need to hit RESET for a new search.
- Try doing a visible comparison with the photographs without entering any measurement data. Choose the most similar element and scroll through to see if any of the included specimens match your bone. If there is no match, see the next FAQ.
There are a few possibilities:
- The bone you have may be of a species not included on the website. We have focused on common North American species, but our list is not comprehensive. See the Additional Resources page for other links or texts that may be of help.
- The bone you have may belong to an element not included on the website (e.g., a rib). We focused the web tool primarily on the appendicular skeleton. We did take photographs of additional elements (but do not have associated measurements). See the Additional Resources page for a dropbox link to photographs of additional elements.
- The bone you have may belong to a juvenile specimen, i.e., they are not skeletally mature, and the ends of the bones (epiphyses) may not be fully fused to the shaft (diaphysis). Furthermore, juvenile specimens will not be as large as their adult counterparts and thus, searching using measurements may not return the correct species.
- Your specimen may not be bone. Other materials are commonly mistake as bone. The presence of a hollow center (medullary cavity) in long bones and the presence of trabecular (also known as cancellous or spongy bone) are good indicators that you have bone.
Anything marked 0-1000mm just means we don’t have comparative measurements. Not all elements have all the same measurements. E.g., the scapula only has a maximum length. But the way the website works, someone could still put in width measurement for the scapula (even though we don’t have a comparative database of that measurement). Thus, by marking these uncollected measurements with a range from 0-1000mm it ensures that specimens aren’t erroneously excluded. It doesn’t mean that a cat scapula could range in width up to 1000mm. None of our specimens have 1000mm elements.
We strived to take photographs of all measured elements, but may have missed a few. Our data collection travel was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, so we didn’t get to collect as much as we wanted. Still, photos are available for MOST elements.
In some species/specimens the radius and ulna may be fused (radio-ulna). If you have a radius or ulna and don’t see a picture, try looking under radio-ulna in case there’s a fused one. Similarly, if you have a radio-ulna (radius and ulna that appear fused), try looking under radius for a picture. Sometimes found bones may look fused, but in actuality may still be held together by ligaments.
CONTACT YOUR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY!
Your local law enforcement agency will have the appropriate contacts who can determine confirm the remains are human, determine whether they are forensically relevant, modern, historic, or prehistoric, and based on that information take the appropriate actions.
If possible, do not disturb the remains. Their location and even their position may be useful to medicolegal and/or archaeological practitioners. Take note of your exact location.
If you are asked to take a photograph for confirmation, include something in the photograph for scale.
See the Additional Resources page. There you will find textbooks and links to other resources. You can also search your local college/university for courses on skeletal anatomy, comparative osteology, zooarchaeology or similar topics. Some institutions also host short courses or webinars on such topics. Try searching “osteology short courses” on the internet to find a number of them.
All images on this website were taken and processed by the research team. You are prohibited from using these images in any way that would result in commercial gain. You are welcome to use the images in educational presentations, provided you cite OsteoID and the webpage.
Although we tried to collect data from a large range of specimens, some of the sample sizes were still small. It is possible to find an element that is smaller or larger than the proposed ranges on this website. Visual identification should always be used to make a final confirmation. We would appreciate it if you would contact the research team at OSTEOIDboneID@gmail.com and include photos of the element and the measurements so that we can update our records appropriately.
We travelled to various museums and collections to collect data; although sample sizes for some species remained small, especially since we were limited to adult specimens. For each species-specific measurement we calculated both the range (min-to-max) and the two standard deviation interval. For each measurement, we included whichever one was larger in this web tool. So if the actual range was wider than the standard deviations we used that, if the standard deviation interval was wider, we used that. We took this more conservative approach to minimize potential exclusion of correct identifications given that we likely have not been able to capture the full range of size of every species.
Contact the research team at OSTEOIDboneID@gmail.com. We’re human – we make mistakes. 😊
A number of texts and links are listed on the Additional Resources page.
There are a number of Facebook and other social media pages dedicated to bone and fossil identification, where you can upload an image and receive almost immediate feedback from others.
You may have some local resources available, such as someone at a nearby college or university or a state archaeologist that may be able to assist in some situations.
You can e-mail us at OSTEOIDboneID@gmail.com, but understand that you may not get immediate feedback.