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Indian Peafowl Feathers. Credit: USFWS

Students and Educators

LIBRARY OF MYSTERY PHOTOS

Quail Feathers

Common Name:  Montezuma Quail
Scientific Name:  Cyrtonyx montezumae
Protected Status:  Protected by state hunting regulations. 
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  This photo shows a close-up of the breast feathers of a Montezuma Quail. This beautifully patterned species is found in the southwestern U.S.

Quail Feathers
Credit: USFWS.

Quetzal Feathers

Common Name:  Resplendent Quetzal
Scientific Name:  Pharomachrus mocinno
Protected Status:  Endangered Species Act – Endangered; CITES – App. I
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  The spectacular golden-green plumes of male quetzals were used to decorate the crowns of Aztec kings, and are now sometimes seen in illegal international trade.

Quetzal Feathers
Credit: USFWS.

Scarlet Macaw specimens

Common Name:  Scarlet Macaw
Scientific Name:  Ara macao
Protected Status:  CITES – App. I
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  This photograph shows specimens of Scarlet Macaws in the collection of the National Museum of Natural History.  Lab morphologists make regular visits to major research museums to collect data and take photographs of specimens that will assist our identification work.

Scarlet Macaw specimens
Credit: USFWS.

Songbird Micro Feather

Common Name:  Lazuli Bunting
Scientific Name:  Passerina amoena
Protected Status:  Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  The downy plumes of most songbird feathers show this pattern of regularly spaced dark nodes when examined under the microscope.  Such microscopic analysis can allow an unknown feather fragment to be identified to general group, but not usually to species.

Songbird Micro Feather
Credit: USFWS.

Spruce Grouse Feathers

Common Name:  Spruce Grouse
Scientific Name:  Falcipennis canadensis
Protected Status:  Protected by state hunting laws.
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  This photograph of the breast feathers of a female Spruce Grouse shows the pattern that provides excellent camouflage when the bird is incubating her eggs among fallen leaves. Whether for camouflage or display, the elaborate feather patterns of birds provide many characters to use in making species identifications.

Spruce Grouse Feathers
Credit: USFWS.

Video Analysis Keyboard

Laboratory Section: Video analysis hardware
What’s the Story?  Color coded keyboard for video editing.  The Lab may receive video files as evidence, and the video editing allows the analyst to capture details that may be missed by casual observation. 

Video Analysis Keyboard
Credit: USFWS.

African Rhino Horn Base

Common Name:  Black Rhino    
Scientific Name:  Diceros bicornis
Protected Status: U.S. ESA – Endangered; CITES – App. I
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  Both African species of rhino have bushy fibrils of keratin exposed around the lower part of the horn; Asian species do not.

African Rhino Horn Base
Credit: USFWS.

Calf Leather

Common Name:  Cattle
Scientific Name:  Bos taurus
Protected Status:  commercial
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  A common product of animal origin, calf skin is the mainstay of the leather industry.  The pattern of the hair follicular pores is helpful in the identification of leather.

Calf Leather
Credit: USFWS.

Carved Elephant Ivory

Common Name:  Elephant
Scientific Name:  Order Proboscidea
Protected Status: varies by species
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  The intersecting lines shown on the bottom of this carved human effigy form what are called the Schreger angles; narrow angles indicate extinct elephants, and wide angles indicate extant (living today) elephants.

Carved Elephant Ivory
Credit: USFWS.

Dyed Fur

Common Name:  Red Fox
Scientific Name:  Vulpes vulpes
Protected Status: CITES – App.III (India)
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  To enhance the color of furs, bleach and dyes are used in creative ways.

Dyed Fur
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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