Osteology in Action!

The story of very unique abnormal goose skulls.

Some years ago, in 2003, a friend of mine, who bred a small quantity of geese near her house in the southwest of Germany for Christmas roasts gave me the head of an animal that seemed to have had problems to eat because of a deformation of its beak. As a passionated “animal skull collector” I prepared the skull and was thrilled by this interesting phenotype (Skull “Andreas”, Photo 1). I was even more surprised when I found, a few years later, another goose skull on display in an exhibition of the Senckenbergmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany, (Photo 2), that looked exactly the same. Interestingly, scientists from the Senckenbergmuseum had published the similarity of their goose skull to an abnormal skull decribed in a drawing of a German physician named Lachmund in latin language in the 17th century already (Photo 2). So I was aware of three skulls of that kind already! I contacted Professor Erhard Kaleta, a veterinary pathologist from the University of Giessen, to ask him for potential reasons that cause such a unique phenotype. He could only speculate, and we started discussions with other veterinarians as well as goose breeders in Germany.

In the meantime we were able to get two more heads of geese bred in Saxony, Germany, that also showed abnormalities, however, different from the beak deformations we had seen before (Photo 3).

In September 2017, I had the chance to talk to Jay Villemarette at the “Museum of Osteology” in Orlando. I told Jay about the geese skulls, and, apparently, also Jay possesses a pathological goose skull, again a very similar phenotype than that one displayed in the drawing from the 17th century. However, this time the beak was bent to the right side (Photo 4)!

In summary, until now we found very few forms of strange beak deformations in geese, nearly always involving mainly the upper beak, and, to our surprise, in most cases a unique phenotype dominated, where the upper beak is bent to the right or the left at an angle of 90 degrees.

We are in the middle of publishing what is known from literature about pathological deformations of beaks in poultry in the last centuries, as well as our ideas what might have caused this unique phenotype.

From what we heard from breeders of geese in Europe, abnormalities of the skulls, especially deformations of the beak are very reare. Nevertheless, we try to find out what pathological types are out there, and we want to ask YOU, if you possess or have knowledge about a goose skulls that appears abnormal.

If so, can you, please, take photos of  that skulls from different sites (lateral, dorsal and ventral view, as example, see Figure1 and 4 above) give us some ideas about the origin of the skulls and that animal (How old is the skull? How old was the goose when it died? Is it a domestic goose or a wild form? Was it bred on a farm among others? Was it the only goose in that flock with that abnormality? At what age was that abnormality recognized for the first time? Is something known about an accident of that animal? Do photos exist of the life animal, or the head with skin and feathers?) and, can you send these photos and infos to: skulls@fastmail.com

We will collect and classify these cases and summarize them in an overview. And it would be more than great if you could help us and tell us about your goose skull! You will, of course, be informed about all our new findings.

We are extremely curious what will come out of this call, if we will find more of our “90 degree bent beak” phenotype, and what other forms of abnormities in geese we will see.

Thanks a lot already for your contribution! We appreciate it!! And thanks Jay for supporting us and allowing us to put that story in this newsletter!

Andreas Lingneau


Figure legends:

Photo 1: Normal Skull (A,C,E) and Skull „Andreas“ (B,D,F) from different views (A and B: lateral, C and D: dorsal, E and F: ventral)

Photo 2: Display of different abnormal goose skulls. A: Drawing from Lachmund, 1673, B: Photo from Skull „Senckenmusum Frankfurt“, Germany, C: Photo „normal“ Skull, Germany, D: Photo from Skull „Andreas“, Germany.

Photo 3: Head of a goose (A, C), and after Skull preparations (B, D). Goose WP-1 (A, B) and Goose WP-2 (C, D) come from Saxony, Germany

Photo 4: Pathological Goose Skull from Jay Villemarette, Museum of Osteology, Oklahoma City, USA. A: lateral view, B: dorsal view, C: ventral view