Curator's Choice: Professor Jenny Clack chooses an extraordinary sea-bream bone

| 19 March 2013

Curator's Choice: Professor Jenny Clack, Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Cambridge's Museum of Zoology, on The Silver Sea Bream: Chrysophrys auratus...

A photo of a strangely-shaped section of animal bone with annotations surrounding it
© University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge 2013
"This extraordinary bone forms the top of the head of this species of sea-bream.

Many species of bream grow large humps on the top of the head, although this is an extreme example. Presumably the hump is a feature related to display between individuals.

When I first saw this specimen I had no idea what it was: it’s one of the most bizarre modifications to the skull I have seen in any animal, and the bone is much more robust than you usually find in ray-finned fishes. It certainly deserved inclusion in our new Teleost exhibition.

Only as I carried out research for this exhibition did it begin to make sense. The upper arrow points to the place where the nerve cord enters the skull to join the brain, and the lower arrow points to the place where the head joins on to the vertebral column (or backbone).

There would be jaw bones beneath the ‘beak’ at the front. This species is found throughout Indo-China, and the specimen is part of the Macartney collection, purchased by the museum in 1836."

  • Animal Bytes is capturing the stories of the Museum of Zoology and its collections. Look out for more highlights from the collection coming up on Culture24.
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