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Field Museum seeks to determine exact identities of killer lions on display

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CHICAGO (AP) - Scientists at the Chicago Field Museum say there may have been a mix-up when researchers identified the remains of two lions suspected of eating about 35 railroad workers in colonial Kenya in the 1890s.

Researchers at the museum have been using a portable X-ray machine this week to determine the identities of the animals’ remains, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The lions’ skulls have been displayed with labels informing visitors which skull belonged to which stuffed pelt in one of the museum’s most popular exhibits.

Scientists have said one of the lions likely attacked as many as two dozen people, while the other ate about half that, so a mix-up would misattribute most of the deaths to one animal instead of the other. The museum acquired the lion pelts in the 1920s from British colonel and engineer John H. Patterson, who fatally shot the lions in December 1898, nine months after the animals began their almost nightly attacks.

“We need to have it correct for the public and for the historic integrity of the display,” said Tom Gnoske, the museum’s assistant collections manager.

Research conducted in 2009 examined the lions’ bone and hair samples. Researchers concluded at the time that the skulls had been mislabeled and mixed-up, so the labels were changed. But the decision wasn’t universally accepted.

Gnoske was among the scientists who believed the original identification was correct.

“When we said, ‘You shouldn’t switch them,’ we argued about it with one of my bigger bosses,” Gnoske said Tuesday. “He said, ‘You’ve got to prove it.’”

Museum officials said it will take detailed analysis by a radiologist to determine if the labels should again be switched.

 

 

Posted 11/24/2017

 
 
 
 

 

 

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