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Browse our Q&A about birds, eggs, nests, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals of the Central Coast and Channel Islands.

marine (?) bones found on Devereaux Beach (will be returned)

Can you tell me what these strange flat bones are from? Recent finds on Devereaux Beach, among after-storm wash-ups. I will return them to the beach. I have another image showing it's thickness, 1/4–3/8-inch, but "Attach Images wont let me add a third image. Thank you, Katey

Katey, Santa Barbara - March 7, 2024

Curator Response

Dear Katey,

These bones look like dolphin sterna (the plural of sternum, the bone also known as a breastbone). Now that you’re thinking of this bone this way, you can probably identify the little divots where the animal’s ribs interacted with the sternum.

Thank you for including scale in one of your images. The large size of these suggests that they may come from the Common Bottlenose Dolphin, Tursiops truncatus. You can read more about this species on the NOAA Fisheries website.

Good call to return these to the beach. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972, possession of marine mammal parts is sharply restricted. Again, NOAA Fisheries has helpful resources explaining the MMPA and the specific restrictions surrounding protected species parts.

Stay curious,

Curator of Vertebrate Zoology Krista Fahy, Ph.D.