Eating the flesh of a Sumatran tiger skull!

Why was there a Sumatran tiger skull outside in Balboa Park today?

Because the skull’s flesh had been devoured by a mass of skin beetles. And those beetles (and their very hungry larvae) would be a nuisance if they escaped indoors!

Scientists from the nearby San Diego Natural History Museum were carefully preparing the Sumatran tiger skull for their collection!

The museum’s Birds and Mammals Department already contains tens of thousands of specimens. I was told preserved specimens, including this tiger skull, are very useful when it comes to comparative anatomy.

I’ve learned that Birds and Mammals Department curator Philip Unitt is the author of The Birds of San Diego County, which happens to be on my bookshelf! (It should be on yours, too.)

I noticed another critter in a nearby container waiting for the skin beetle (Dermestidae) treatment. A gray fox that was road kill in La Jolla would provide dinner for the beetles next!

Funny. I was visiting Balboa Park to check out the ongoing preparations for December Nights. Which just goes to show–you never know what you’ll discover when walking through this amazing park!

The San Diego Natural History Museum, like many other Balboa Park museums, will be open free to the public during December Nights!

Here’s the beetles’ next meal: a gray fox…

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I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Bones, stones, and ancient history in San Diego.

Did you know humans might have been living in your neighborhood 130,000 years ago?

I was visiting the San Diego Natural History Museum when my eyes fell upon an interesting display concerning the Cerutti Mastodon site.

Thirty years ago, during the expansion of State Route 54 in the South Bay, a team of researchers from the San Diego Natural History Museum discovered mastodon bones among cobbles. The bones appeared to have been intentionally broken. It was believed the stones, which had impact marks, had been used by humans to fracture the mastodon bones to extract marrow.

Using radiometric dating, the bones were found to be about 130,000 years old. If, indeed, early humans had worked these bones, that would mean humans were in North America about 100,000 years earlier than previously thought!

Many experts asserted the bones were broken due to the heavy machinery used for freeway construction. Two years ago, however, more evidence was obtained. Bone micro-residues were observed on the cobbles, which seems to confirm that ancient inhabitants of San Diego did indeed hammer at fresh, tasty mastodon bones!

If all of this excites your curiosity, the Wikipedia article concerning San Diego’s scientifically important Cerutti Mastodon site can be found here.

And here’s a detailed article about the discovery written in 2017.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Become a citizen scientist in San Diego!

Would you like to make contributions to science? But you’re not a trained scientist?

You can easily become a citizen scientist!

Opportunities are available for ordinary people who’d like to use their passion or particular talents to help broaden our understanding of the natural world.

I discovered several great ideas while visiting the San Diego Natural History Museum recently. Signs spotted around the exhibition Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science provide details.

Most of the following ideas apply not just to San Diego residents, but to anyone anywhere. Here they are:

Become a member of iNaturalist and post photographs you’ve taken of living things in nature. Scientists will identify what you recorded. Nature lovers around the world can discuss your observations. You’ll contribute to our shared understanding of biodiversity. To learn more click here.

Participate in the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count or Great Backyard Bird Count. Critically important data collected during these events is used by scientists to study bird populations across the country. To learn more click here.

Participate in the Celebrate Urban Birds project. Spend ten minutes helping scientists understand how common birds are doing in urban settings. More than a quarter of a million ordinary people have already made observations! To learn more click here. (Balboa Park’s own WorldBeat Center has participated in this project. Read about that here!)

Become a summer camper at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park. Over the years, people walking around Balboa Park have observed green anole lizards, which aren’t native to San Diego. It was determined by the museum’s young summer campers that the green anoles were the descendants of escapees. These lizards had once been used as food for other animals at the San Diego Zoo! To learn more about attending summer camp at theNAT, click here. (Scholarships are available!)

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Kids make silly critters at Natural History Museum!

Kids always have lots of fun at the San Diego Natural History Museum! They can check out cool dinosaurs and even living animals. And they can make silly critters out of recycled materials!

The creative activity takes place inside the NAT’s Nature Lab, which is open on Saturdays from 10 to 2. The Nature Lab also hosts school children during field trips to the museum and Balboa Park. It has a natural history library, too!

Have you ever poked your nose into this cool Nature Lab, which is located on the first level of the museum? I did last Saturday!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!