Human or Non-Human
Vertebrates (animals with bones) share common origins. But we have all evolved in response to particular ways of life and environments, so human and animal bones differ in internal structure, density, and shape. For most animals, the differences are pronounced. A trained scientist can easily identify them.
In 2007, these bones were discovered in rural West Virginia. Law enforcement agents contacted Smithsonian scientists for help in identifying them. Do you think these bones are human or non-human?
...these bones are not human.
Sometimes, the distinctive adaptations in bone are tricky to spot. This clawless hind paw of a black bear looks somewhat like a human foot.
How do cases like this come to the attention of the police? When hunters skin bears, they remove the claws with the pelt and leave the feet in the woods, to be found later by hikers or family pets.
- Very few animals have bones! Of all species discovered and described scientifically, only about 4 percent have bones. Vertebrates (named for their backbones) are overwhelmingly outnumbered by the other 96 percent — the boneless invertebrates.