how to identify a metatarsal bone
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Whle preparing this lesson, I read online copies of Pony Express. A note written by Brian Ahern in Florida Fossil Horse Newsletter, Volume 3, Number 3/4, 2nd Half 1994 stirred my interest in examining fossil bones in what I will now call the Hallquist collection. All of the bones were found near our home. Many came from a bone bed. The following diagram and quotation are keys to identification of one bone. Note that Brian was fourteen years old when this information was posted.

Horse Anatomy--What is a Cannon Bone, by Brian Ahern

"In Equus, how can you tell a cannon bone in the front leg from the back leg, and the left from the right? When you hold the proximal (top) end of the cannon bone toward you with the rounded side up, you will note that the proximal end of the metacarpal (front leg) is oval in shape with the bottom flattened. The proximal end of the metatarsal (hind leg) is larger and rounder. (See diagrams below.) Looking at the proximal end of either the metacarpal or metatarsal, you will see that both will have a small facet on them. If this facet is on the left side then the bone comes from a left limb. If the small facet is on the right side then it's from a right limb."

I put two photos together and scanned them to make the image at left. The deposit was within a few inches of the surface in a local area that was being developed from being a meadow into a row of homes.

Some terminology: the end of a leg bone nearer an animal body is proximal. The farther end is distal. The photos were taken in August 1996. I did not know that they are from one metatarsal bone until I read Brian's note on Jan. 4, 2005.

The following digital images were prepared on Jan. 5, 2005.

Subject: Re: your 1994 cannon bone note

Date: Thu 01/06/05 12:18 PM
In a message dated 1/6/2005 12:43:13 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, writes: I am writing an online class. An 18 week class, 8 written.

Do you mind the way I used your cannon bone note?
It was a thrill to be able to identify a metatarsal.

Best regards, glenn

By all means have fun at it!!
Brian Ahern
Tampa, FL.

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