On the same outing that I discovered the bobcat scratches, I found a dead tree whose top had broken off, leaving a stump with little pockets where debris had collected between the jagged points. I was reminded of Wanderin’ Weeta’s post where she peered into some holes in the trunk of a tree and discovered, among other things, a sowbug graveyard.
I looked closer at the top of my stump; no sowbug remains, but there did seem to be two little round, white loops that resembled vertebrae. I thought maybe they had belonged to a mouse or some other rodent. I looked around for any other evidence of remains, but saw nothing. To have a closer look, I took a twig and hooked them with it to lift them out. Even my delicate little woman’s fingers were too big and chubby to fit into the small nook.
Sitting them in my palm, it was quickly apparent they weren’t mammal vertebrae. For one thing, the backbones of mammals have a bony bit that sticks out from the middle of the back, onto which the back muscles attach (these are the bumps you see when someone bends over). These little loops had projections to the side. Also, the central holes appeared too large for a mammal vertebra, which has only to accommodate the spinal cord and doesn’t need to be exceptionally wide. I would expect the hole of a mammal’s backbone to be about the same width as the circling bone is thick.
A closer look provides the answer: see the little protrusion at the bottom of the lower one? I believe these are the bleached, empty sections of an invertebrate, possibly a millipede. It’s likely it was somebody’s dinner, and part of the remains were either discarded here or dropped from a perch higher above, and landed in the stump, where they sat and bleached and waited for me to find them.