Beautiful bones

The elaborate and massive bones of the California condor are breathtaking. For this post I offer 19th century illustrations of some of these amazing structures.

Please ponder the form of the bones below, keeping in mind that you are viewing 2-dimensional simplifications of the 3-dimensional bones.

Below each image I identify the bones based on the original captions.

01 Cranium

Cranium (skull)

02 Rib

From left to right, ribs of the California condor, black vulture, Egyptian vulture, and osprey

The next 6 images were originally printed life size. Because I cannot do that here, I have included a scale on the blue paper: the longer line is 1 inch and the shorter line is 1 centimeter.

03 Pelvis

Pelvis (hip)

04 Sternum

Sternum (“keel”)

05 Femur

Femur (part of leg)

06 Coracoid

Coracoid (part of shoulder)

07 Coracoid Scapula Humerus

Upper: scapula and coracoid  (part of shoulder)
Lower: humerus (part of wing)

08 Metacarpus Furculum Vertebra

Upper: metacarpus (part of wing) with pollex (“thumb”) and its claw
Lower left: furculum (wishbone!)
Lower right: vertebra (back)

It’s important to remember that many bird bones are not solid or even tubular. They can be as structurally complicated on the inside as on the outside.

All the illustrations above are from a chapter in an 1883 government document:

09 Title - Shufeldt 1883

The full document’s title is:

Twelfth Annual Report of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories: A Report of Progress of the Exploration in Wyoming and Idaho for the Year 1878. Part 1: Geology, Paleontology, and Zoölogy.

Chapter author Shufeldt is the artist (the higher-quality images also credit the printmakers: T Sinclair and Son). Given the detail of his “bone work”, Shufeldt’s profile of a California condor’s head is a bit disappointing:

10 Profile

A detailed illustration of a California condor’s skull by Shufeldt, along with some of Shufeldt’s historically-significant comments about the condor, are in a previous post: The skull.