On Friday I presented you with this delightful looking creature’s skull:
and asked you what it was. SmallCasserole and Jim vied to reach the correct answer, with the physicist narrowly beating the biologist to the solution using brute force of reasoning (rather than attempting a comparative approach). However, Jim did step up and suggest a more specific answer – which despite some research over the weekend I am still not able to confirm. I need access to some more comparative material.
We know it is a juvenile hyrax, but there are four species of hyrax (and lots of subspecies within those four) so it’s hard to be sure which this is. Jim suggested that it is Procavia capensis (a rock hyrax to most people) and he could well be correct. If you are not familiar with hyraxes then you might want to see what this little fella would have looked like in the flesh:
Isn’t it cute?
Hyraxes are among the closest living relatives to elephants (a pub quiz fact if ever there was one) despite the fact that they superficially look like stumpy-legged, short-eared rabbits or possibly a rodent of some sort. This is probably easier to work out from the skull with its tusk-like incisiors (although in the juvenile these are not that obvious).
I like hyraxes because they provide an example (one of many) of how the Old Testament contains inaccurate descriptions of the real world (thereby demonstrating that it cannot be divine in its authorship): Leviticus 11:5 “And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you”. Hyraxes don’t chew the cud, they just spend a lot of time chewing – something that a casual observer might mistake for chewing cud, but not something that the creator of the creature is likely to get wrong.
I believe Jim was limited in his approach by the fact that someone had stolen all the skulls with which he wished to compare!
I’ve long known about hyraxs and there relationship with elephants (Mrs SmallCasserole, a zoologist, told me long ago), but didn’t appreciate there were four species from which to choose.
He is very cute, but looks absolutely nothing like an elephant!
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You might be able to ID the species – (bush hyrax) Heterohyrax brucei or (rock hyrax) Procavia capensis – here: