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Indian Peafowl Feathers. Credit: USFWS

Students and Educators

LIBRARY OF MYSTERY PHOTOS

Elephant Hide Close-up

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?    Each polygon is called a papillae, which is a raised pinch of skin; the pathways in between the papillae form the wrinkles of an elephant’s skin.  The black dot near the upper left corner is a pore where a bristly hair protrudes through the skin.

Elephant Hide Close-up
Credit: USFWS.

Tanned Elephant Skin

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 bumps are called papillae, they provide durability to the elephant’s skin.  Between the papillae are larger and smaller wrinkles.

Tanned Elephant Skin
Credit: USFWS.

Elephant Tail Hair Cross-Section

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?  Using special filters under a microscope, cross-sections of elephant tail hair show the different forms of keratin that make up the hair.

Elephant Tail Hair Cross-Section
Credit: USFWS.

Fake Rhino Horn

Common Name:  Asian Water Buffalo
Scientific Name: Bubalus bubalis
Protected Status: CITES—App. III (Nepal)
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story? Horns of water buffalo are often used as substitute for the rare rhinoceros horn in Asian medicinals. The upper part has been highly polished, while the lower part shows the knicks and scratches were made during manufacture.

Fake Rhino Horn
Credit: USFWS.

Fake Ivory

Item:  plastic
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  Plastic resin can be poured into a mold to create an object that looks like ivory.  Under low magnification, small bubbles appear where air is trapped between the mold and the resin.

Fake Ivory
Credit: USFWS.

Giraffe Tail Hair Cross-Section

Common Name:  Giraffe
Scientific Name:  Giraffa camelopardalis
Protected Status: None
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  Like elephant tail hair, giraffe tail hairs are also used as jewelry, but they can be distinguished from elephant by the regular rays where fewer pigment granules accumulate.

Giraffe Tail Hair Cross-Section
Credit: USFWS.

Grizzly Bear Hair

Common Name:  Grizzly or Brown Bear
Scientific Name:  Ursus arctos
Protected Status:  U.S. ESA – Endangered as U. arctos pruinosus, as U. arctos in Mexico, and as U. a.arctos in Italy.  Threatened as U.a.horribilis in the Lower 48 States except where listed as Experimental Non-Essential.  CITES — App.I as U. arctos (Mexico, Bhutan, China, and Mongolia pops.) and as U. a.isabellinus; otherwise App.II. 
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  On most grizzlies, the ends of the hairs are golden.

Grizzly Bear Hair
Credit: USFWS.

Hair Cross-Section Tool

Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  A microtome holds a sharp blade that is used to cut specially prepared hair specimens into precisely measured cross-sections.

Hair Cross-Section Tool
Credit: USFWS.

Hippo Ivory

Common Name:  Hippopotamus
Scientific Name:  Hippopotamus amphibius
Protected Status: CITES – App.II
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story?  This figurine is carved from one of the large tusks of the hippo.

Hippo Ivory
Credit: USFWS.

Ibex Horns

Common Name:  Ibex
Scientific Name:  Capra sp.
Protected Status: varies by species and locality
Laboratory Section: Morphology
What’s the Story? Ibex horns are characterized by large horizontal knobs along the outer curve of their high arcing horns.

Ibex Horns
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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