Osteology everywhere: Halloween skull comet

It’s Halloween, a day when it’s socially acceptable for adults to play dress-up like children. Also, people celebrate things that are spooky-scary. So it’s perfect timing that NASA would announce that our planet will be visited by a dead comet, a celestial ghost hoping to haunt a planet full of the living. As NASA pointed out in their press release, the comet looks kind of like a skull:

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 2.29.55 PM

But it doesn’t look like just any old skull, it’s a dead ringer (see what I did there?) for AL 333-105, a cranium of a juvenile Australopithecus afarensis (Kimbel et al., 1982):

Dead comet (left), and AL 333-105 (right). Modified from Fig. 12 of Kimbel et al. (1982).

Dead comet (left), and front view of AL 333-105 (right). Modified from Fig. 12 of Kimbel et al. (1982).

The similarity is striking (not comet-striking: NASA estimates the object won’t get any closer than 300,000 miles from Earth). In each case you’ve got the eye sockets (“orbits”), some of the nasal aperture, and the right maxilla. Both appear to be missing the same left portion of the lower face. Sure, AL 333-105 is only a few centimeters in size while the comet is about 60,000 cm across, but I think we can safely say that the comet is the zombied AL 333-105 cranium, come back to life and hurtling through space to see the place it called home 3 million years ago.

So how spooky-scary is that?

Kimbel, W., Johanson, D., & Coppens, Y. (1982). Pliocene hominid cranial remains from the Hadar formation, Ethiopia American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 57 (4), 453-499 DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.1330570404

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