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Indian Peafowl Feathers. Credit: USFWS

Students and Educators

LIBRARY OF MYSTERY PHOTOS

Micrograph of Hair

Common Name:  Tibetan Antelope
Scientific Name:  Pantholops hodgsonii
Protected Status: U.S. ESA – Endangered; CITES – App.I
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  Image of the cuticle scales on the surface of a guard hair (coarse fiber) from a Tibetan antelope.  The shape of the scales is diagnostic for the species, and therefore only one coarse fiber trapped in the weave of the shawl is all that is necessary to prove its origin from an endangered species.

Micrograph of Hair
Credit: USFWS.

Electrophoretic Gel of Caviar DNA

Common Name: Sturgeon
Scientific Name: Acipenser sp.
Protected Status:  U.S. ESA Threatened or Endangered, depending of species; CITES – App. I or App. II depending of species
Laboratory Section:  Genetics
What’s the Story?  Sturgeon species in the caviar trade (fish eggs) can be identified by their DNA sequence.

Electrophoretic Gel of Caviar DNA
Credit: USFWS.

Bug Colony at Work

Common Name: Dermestid Beetles
Scientific Name: Family Dermestidae
Protected Status: None
Laboratory Section:  Morphology
What’s the Story? The laboratory maintains a colony of these beetles for cleaning skeletons. Find our more about our bug colony.

Bug Colony at Work
Credit: USFWS.

Elephant Hair Bracelet

Common Name: African Elephant
Scientific Name: Loxodonta africana
Protected Status:  U.S. ESA – Threatened; CITES – App. I or II, depending on subspecies and locality.
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  The long, coarse hairs from the tail of the elephant can be woven into jewelry such as bracelets, rings, and earrings.

Elephant Hair Bracelet
Credit: USFWS.

Gender Determination through Genetic Analysis

Common Name: Elk
Scientific Name: Cervus elaphus
Protected Status: Protected at the State level. Not federally protected.
Laboratory Section: Genetics
What’s the Story?  The take of a female elk is only allowed during doe season. Determination of gender is done using genomic DNA when other morphological characteristics are absent (example, antlers).

Gender Determination through  Genetic Analysis
Credit: USFWS.

Carved Ivory Tusk

Item: Could be a carved elephant tusk or could be made from plastic.
Laboratory Section: Morphology and Criminalistics
What’s the Story?  First, the composition of the material must be assayed if morphological features are not apparent.  This can be done using instruments that can determine the elemental constituents of the material.

Carved Ivory Tusk
Credit: USFWS.

Fake Carving

Item:  Resembled a carving made from Helmeted Hornbill beak
Analysis:  Analysis showed this was not a wildlife product
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story? This object was made to look as if it was carved from the beak of a rare Helmeted Hornbill. Lab analysis showed it was a fake. View an example of a real Hornbill carving.

Fake Carving
Credit: USFWS.

Caviar Tins

Common Name: Sturgeon eggs
Scientific Name: Acipenser sp.
Protected Status:  U.S. ESA Threatened or Endangered, depending of species; CITES – App. I or App. II depending of species
Laboratory Section: Genetics
What’s the Story?  The US is one of the biggest importers of Caviar.  Certain species are endangered and their importation is prohibited.  Design on the tins has information of species of origin and of the caviar grade.

Caviar Tins
Credit: USFWS.

Tissue Samples

Common Name: Elk
Scientific Name: Cervus elaphus
Protected Status: Protected at the State level. Not federally protected.
Laboratory Section: Genetics
What’s the Story?  Individualization requires comprehensive population samples.  Samples such as blood and muscle are archived in controlled conditions.

Tissue Samples
Credit: USFWS.

Freezer with Tissue Samples

Item: Ultralow Freezers
Laboratory Section: Genetics
What’s the Story? Noah’s Ark. Class character determinations and Individualization requires comprehensive muscle and blood samples.  These samples are stored in freezers and kept at -70 degrees centigrade

Freezer with Tissue Samples
Credit: USFWS.

NOTICES:

  • These photos should not be used for identification purposes.  Detailed information to assist with selected species identification problems can be found at Publications and Identifications Guides.
  • For more information about Protected Status, view our U.S. Wildlife Laws page.
  • You may download these photos for educational purposes with credit to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), but cannot use them for commercial purposes or sell them.
  • Copyright © US Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory.

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