Welcome back to Who needs an osteologist? Today, we have a special fantasy-chimera edition thanks to my husband, who was recently at GitHub HQ in San Francisco for an all-company meeting. He snapped this picture of the "skeleton" of the famous GitHub Octocat:
|Felis octocatus skeleton at GitHub headquarters|
|Octocat in the flesh|
The sign below the display reads, "Octocat Skeleton. Felis octocatus. This piece, which GitHub was lucky enough to receive from an anonymous donor, is the oldest known fossil evidence of an octocat. Carbon dating reveals the remarkably well-preserved remains to be approximately 6.3 million years old, suggesting that the evolutionary and taxonomical split between Felis silvestris and Felis octocatus gradually occurred somewhere off the coast of the South China Sea, when a constitutionally robust ancestor of octocatus ventured seaward, most likely as a result of the scarcity of rodent prey."
Yes, this is a cute mock-up of a fake animal. But I can still rag on it, right? To wit:
- Carbon dating can only go back to about 60,000 years, not 6 million. We can't actually directly date fossils that old; we have to use the context in which they were found (e.g., rock) and we have to use other elements, like uranium, potassium, and argon.
- Felis silvestris showed up 2 million years ago, having come from the earlier Felis lunensis (around 2.5 million years ago), so it's impossible for Felis octocatus to have diverged from F. silvestris 6 million years ago.
- Octopuses have no bones.
- So, assuming the majority of the skeleton in question would be similar to a cat--domesticated or ancient--it appears that
- Each of the five arms (yes, the Octocat is a Pentacat) is composed primarily of what look like caudal vertebrae.
- The rudimentary body is similar to the morphology of large cervical vertebrae, I guess.
- The nasal opening is far too small for that of a cat.
- Unless the Octocat is part primate, as it has large, forward-facing eyes and bony orbits more similar to lemurs' and monkeys' than to cats', the eyes are wrong.
- I'm unaware of any mammal that has bony protrusions for the ears rather than, you know, ear-holes.
And GitHub... pretty please, could you change the sign so that the C14 information is corrected? A simple substitution of "uranium" or "potassium" for "carbon" should do. It makes me twitchy.
- The Telegraph needs an osteologist.
- University Museum in Chieti-Pescara needs an osteologist.
- NKP Salve Institute of Medical Sciences needs an osteologist.
- Huffington Post and the Mars Rover need an osteologist.
- PBS and Richard III need an osteologist.
- Abbot House Museum needs an osteologist.
- The Zanjan Museum needs an osteologist.
- National Geographic Channel's "Nazi War Diggers" needs an osteologist.
- BBC/NOVA needs an osteologist.
- The Penn Museum needs an osteologist.
- National Geographic needs an osteologist.
- Acura needs an osteologist.
- The "African" woman in Fairford, England, needs an osteologist.
- Museo delle Grotte needs an osteologist.
- Either NPR or Yale needs an osteologist.
- Yorkshire Museum needs an osteologist.
- Staffordshire University needs an osteologist.
- And, of course, Bones needs an osteologist.