Autopsy of an Animal Carcass

June 23, 2015
animal carcass

Ever stumbled across a carcass that has been lying concealed in a thick bush and wondered what the story behind it is?

Look at the picture again and see how it unfolds…

Just by first glance at the carcass, we can already say a lot.
1. No skull present
This might have been taken away my humans.
2. It has been lying there for quite some time. Estimate at least a year.
3. The area has no scavengers, since the bones have not been moved much.

Now we start asking questions and digging a bit deeper into the story.

What animal was it, if we cannot see the skull or the skin?
After looking for clues, we found the hooves, and even though a bit decomposed, were are  able to tell that it is a zebra carcass.

How did the zebra die?

Looking at the carcass, it seems as if it was due to old age, but looking at how twisted the spine is but still intact, it must have been killed by something, depending on the predators feeding habits. The twisted spine might also be because of the struggle with the predator.

The most difficult piece of the puzzle is to try and figure out what happened after the struggle…

After examining a few more bones, we discovered five claw like bones close to where the neck must have been at time of death.  But why five claws. Does any predator big enough to kill a zebra shed nails? 
The answer is no…

The only cat big enough to kill a zebra in the area would be a lion, and the stuctures resembles the five claws of a lion in size.

But where is the lion without claws?

Lets look at our own nails, which are made of the same keratin as the claws of a lion… they re-grow.

Due to oxidation the keratin turned into solid bone!!!

The conclusion of the whole exercise is that the zebra was killed by a lion and one of two things happened.

1. The Zebra kicked the lions paw to such an extent that the nails broke off when he eventually managed to grab it.


2. The human factor played a huge roll and the lion actually died in the same spot due to injury, and the carcass was taken away to get buried in order to avoid bone poaching.

Unfortunately the mystery remains.
We will never truly know what happened.


By Field Guide, Ewert Hauptfleisch



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