Museums & Collections Blog
  •  
  •  
  • Categories

  •  
  • Tags

  •  
  • Archives

  • Bits of animals that are surprisingly the same size – Vol. 1

    By Jack Ashby, on 2 March 2016

    The other day, two skulls were next to each other on the trolley – a capybara and a hyena. One is the world’s largest rodent, from the wetlands of South America, the other is a large carnivore from Sub-Saharan Africa, and as such are not often found together in museums.

    Capybara and spotted hyena skulls, which are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z180 and LDUCZ-Z2589)

    Capybara and spotted hyena skulls, which are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z180 and LDUCZ-Z2589)

    I was amazed that they were the same size. This inspired me to find other bits of animals that are surprisingly the same size…

    Ear bone (auditory bulla) of a baleen whale, and a bulldog skull, which are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z290 and LDUCZ-Z315)

    Ear bone (auditory bulla) of a baleen whale, and a bulldog skull, which are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z290 and LDUCZ-Z315)

    The auditory bulla is the hollow bony structure on a skull which encloses parts of the middle and inner ear. In whales they are quite big; the same size as the entire skull of a bulldog, in fact.

    A tiny frog skeleton, and a common European wasp. They are surprisingly the same size - as each other and as a five pence piece.

    A tiny frog skeleton, and a common European wasp. They are surprisingly the same size – as each other and as a five pence piece. (Despite the effect caused by the two black surfaces, this is a single photo)

    Unfortunately we don’t know what kind of frog this is, but it is a tiny one. In adult form it is the same size as a common European wasp.

    Leopard seal and horse skull, surprisingly, are the same size (LDUCZ-Z1125 and LDUCZ-Z1192)

    Leopard seal and horse skulls, surprisingly, are the same size (LDUCZ-Z1125 and LDUCZ-Z1192)

    While it is well known that horses are big, it may come as a shock to some to learn that their skulls are the same size as a leopard seal’s. Leopard seals need big skulls as they eat other seals, and penguins. In addition, their bodies are very big so it would look weird if their skulls were small.

    A European mole skeleton and a freeze-dried fire salamander, which have very similar dimensions. surprisingly. (LDUCZ-Z2169 and LDUCZ-W508)

    A European mole skeleton and a freeze-dried fire salamander, which are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z2169 and LDUCZ-W508)

    Based on people’s reaction to our famous Jar of Moles, it seems that many people are not aware of a mole’s size – they are surprised that they are so small. They may also be taken aback that fire salamaders are equally small (and equally large). Preserving zoological specimens by freeze-drying them was pioneered by former Grant Museum Curator Reg Harris. One can only imagine the preparation of a fire salamander by freeze-drying was ironic.

    A fur ball (bezoar) from a cow and a macaque monkey skull are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z1117 and LDUCZ-Z920)

    A hair ball (bezoar) from a cow and a guenon monkey skull are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z1117 and LDUCZ-Z920)

    This cow had a lump of matted hair in its stomach that is similarly sized to a reasonably large monkey’s head, which is pretty astonishing. These hair balls form in a part of the cow’s stomach that is incapable of regurgitation, which means that this specimens was “retrieved” post mortem.

    A tawny owl skull and a Hercules beetle are surprisingly the same size (LDUCZ-Y325 and LDUCZ-L3296)

    A tawny owl skull and a Hercules beetle are surprisingly the same size (LDUCZ-Y325 and LDUCZ-L3296)

    Owls are reasonably large birds, but once all the feathers are taken away, they look a lot smaller. Owls include beetles in their diet, but probably not huge Hercules beetles like this one.

    A baboon and a walrus' penis bone are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z472 and LDUCZ-Z673)

    A whole baboon and a walrus’ penis bone are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z472 and LDUCZ-Z673)

    Most mammals (including non-human primates) have bones in their penis (a baculum), but most of them are not the same length as a whole adult male baboon.

    The cast of a gorilla's hand and an echidna (LDUCZ-Z467 and LDUCZ-Z7)

    The cast of a gorilla’s hand and an echidna (LDUCZ-Z467 and LDUCZ-Z7)

    When this cast was made of an adult male gorilla’s hand in 1929, the researchers involved would probably be surprised to find that it is the same size as a short-nosed echidna.


    There’s every chance that this could turn in to an occassional series of blogs showing animal parts that are surprisingly the same size. If you can think of any such pairings please do drop them in the comments box below.

    Jack Ashby is Manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology

    Leave a Reply