This week I have a complete mystery for you to identify. I’ve checked this specimen against all sorts of species and have drawn a blank. So, I’m opening it up to you, to see if you have some inspiration to help me solve what this is:
As usual, you can put your thoughts, questions and suggestions in the comments box below. I look forward to hearing your ideas!
I was struck by the cat-like dentition and general shape, but as many of you worked out, that’s no cat.
It is in fact a specimen of a Fossa Cryptoprocta ferox Bennett, 1833, as correctly identified by Charne, Manabu Sakamoto, Nigel Monaghan, SMerjeevski – good skills!
Fossa by Ran Kirlian
This carnivore is endemic to Madagascar and is the foremost natural predator of lemurs. They are well adapted to climbing in order to catch their tree-dwelling main course, with rotating ankles a bit like a Margay.
Madagascar is an amazing place for biology. It separated from Africa around 20 million years ago and has had its own unique wildlife evolving there ever since. This means that the familiar cats that fill niches in (relatively) nearby Africa are missing, since they didn’t really exist when Madagascar started drifting off. The Fossa fills that catty niche.
In a few weeks I’ll be delivering some training in Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tydfil, which will look at using natural science collections to engage a range of audiences. If you think this might be of interest the details are below.
Date & time: 11 March 2015 10am for a 10.30 start to 4.30pm
This free course is funded by CyMAL and provided through the Linking Natural Science Collections in Wales partnership project. It is open to staff and volunteers working in museums in Wales and beyond. NB a charge of £10 for catering will be made for those working in museums outside Wales. Any cheques to be payable to ‘Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales’.
It is suitable for anyone who:
Wants to think creatively about how to use natural science collections
Is already working with natural science collections
Is interested in making links to local landscapes/wildlife groups
Wants to tackle current issues such as biodiversity and climate change
Wants to make links between natural science collections and social/industrial history etc.
Aim: To offer insight into creative ways of using natural science collections to engage key audiences.
By the end of the course participants will have:
details of useful resources
ideas for using their collections
greater confidence in their ability to use natural science collections to engage with key audiences, including schools, communities and specialist groups.
Training Methods: A blend of presentations, practical exercises, informal discussion and one to one consultancy. Preparation: Please come with an idea of what is in your natural science collections (eg geology, zoology, shells etc.) Registration Registration requests are limited to 2 per organisation however we are happy to waitlist any others in the event the course is not fully subscribed. Please contact
Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place.
So when I first picked it up I thought – embarrassingly now – that perhaps it was something a bit pinniped-like but then the teeth didn’t match that idea at all so I reverted to thinking it was a bit more doggy.
Irritatingly, it was a juvenile so that scuppered size-based guesses, and ruled out taking too much information from the posterior, mandibular teeth. Also, the skull was darn cute, with a shorter snout than an adult would possess.
I had a couple of ideas from looking at the width of the zygomatic arches, but that lack of a parasagittal crest got me all twisted around. And time was tight for what we needed it for!
My esteemed colleague Mr Garrod was the first to push me in the direction of a wolverine, but I’ll leave it to Paolo to show how he managed to ID the little critter and save the day – although it looks like a bunch of people on here already managed that! Love the bone-banter. :D
Despite the juvenile dentition, the blade-like molar and 3rd premolar, and robust second molar were indicative of a carnivore with a specialisation for eating bone and the breadth across the zygomatic arches indicated something with a powerful bite force.
Wolverine dentition is remarkably robust, since they often scavenge bone and in the winter they need to feed on meat that has frozen solid. They have a wide skull (see above), but the relatively large upper molar is at right angles to the 4th premolar, which has a cleft that the 3rd premolar nestles into.
This is rather different to the much straighter dentition of the mystery animal, which is distinctly more cat-like, albeit with too many teeth. That narrows it down to one of the Hyenas. From there it becomes a bit more difficult and the fact it’s a juvenile throws a bit of a spanner in the works, but if pushed I’d probably opt for Spotted Hyaena Crocuta crocuta (Erxleben, 1777).
So well done to Chris, Lena, palfreyman1414, Allen Hazen and henstridgesj who all came to the same conclusion.
Finally, a big ‘thank you!’ to Nick for posing a decent challenge!
Last week i gave you this colourful specimen to identify:
As I suspected, some of the keen birders out there were straight on the case and GrrlScientist (unsurprisingly to me) immediately knew the species and an awful lot about its taxonomy, offering helpful hints and clues to other commentators.
After some discussion it became clear that this is a Finch and one of the Neotropical varieties at that. The bright yellow belly, emerald green head, throat, chest and wing, brilliant blue nape, back and eye ring all suggest that this is a male Blue-naped Chlorophonia Chlorophonia cyanea longipennis (Du Bus, 1855) from Peru.
There are other subspecies of Blue-naped Chlorophonia, but they have some slight differences in appearance, such as a yellow forehead, yellow tinged crown or green feathers in the mantle.
Here’s one of the little chaps in action:
So a big well done to everyone who managed to work it out!