Posts Tagged ‘carnivorans’

When Bacula Attack

5 February 2010

A few weeks back I invited microecos readers to identify this.

Almost immediately, and simultaneously, Mo and Valin correctly deduced that it was a baculum, otherwise known as an os penis or “penis bone.”  This rapid response says something encouraging about the readers of this blog, and their familiarity with the anatomy of animal genitals.

For those not in the know: the baculum is a “heterotopic” bone that, like the patella, forms from the ossification of connective tissue in the penis of many mammals.  You could sorta think of a baculum as a knee-cap in your penis — except that you, as  human, don’t have one, even if you’re a boy.  Many other primates do have a baculum as do most bats, rodents, carnivorans etc. There is a wonderful (but sadly, probably apocryphal) reading of the Genesis creation narrative that suggests the “rib” (צלע or tzela in Hebrew) removed from Adam to make Eve in Genesis 2 was actually a baculum – which would explain why humans don’t have one.

Anyway, the critter from whence this baculum came has remained elusive.  Kari and Gretchen in turn were able to work out that it came from a carnivoran and more specifically from a mustelid–the family that includes badgers, wolverines and weasels. But my “hint” about its potential lethality proved unhelpful.  Various guesses that it came from a marine mammal also deserve partial credit, though it’s worth noting that cetaceans, like their artiodactyl relatives (cows, hippos, muntjacs and the lot), lack penis bones.

So to whom does this impressive piece of equipment belong (or used belong to anyway)?

I’m sure the suspense is just killing you.  Below, the big reveal:

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