Friday mystery object #43


I am back at the Horniman this week, after last week’s soujourn to Plymouth. Yesterday I was working through some of the collections that I’ve been in the process of transferring from my office space to our stores building, when I came across this specimen:

I love the shape of this skull so much that I just had to have it as a mystery object. It would be too easy if I gave you a side-view, so you’ll just have to wait for that until Monday. Make your suggestions below and I’ll do my best to respond (although my home internet has been down for the past week, so I may be limited in how much opportunity I have to reply to questions).

Best of luck!

44 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #43

    • My first response has to be ‘look at the scale bar’. If it’s a squirrel it’s one with a 13cm long skull…

      That said, I see exactly where you are coming from with reference to the shape.

    • That’s correct – bunnies et al. are lagomorphs, although they share very similar dentition to rodents – prominent large open-rooted first incisors with a large diastema (gap) behind them. Rabbits et al. also have ‘peg-teeth’ which are small second incisors tightly butted behind the main front ones in the upper jaw.

  1. Hmm, I was going to say Coypu, though perhaps it is just a cm or so too large for that, and I think this chap has a larger nose…

  2. Lunch Club says:
    It’s not some kind of marsupial is it?
    Hare? No, eyes too facing forward to be a lagomorph …. (lecture from Mike on how lagomorphs were separated from rodents on basis of dentition)
    Mike says the dentition suggests a grazing animal but the eyes are forward-facing … AM & Neil say is it nocturnal? Is it S American?

    • It’s not some kind of marsupial is it?
      No

      Mike says the dentition suggests a grazing animal but the eyes are forward-facing …
      Those aren’t the eyes that face forward!

      AM & Neil say is it nocturnal?
      Yep

      Is it S American?
      Nope

      • A-M is pondering while on her way to join me for the jazz, Neil has gone to pick up his passport with Chinese visa and Mike has gone home. But I don’t think you’re going to get anything more from us, considering
        A) we’re a botanist, 2 biochemists and a systems engineer, not a zoologist amongst us and
        B) it’s our last day of teaching ….

  3. It’s the size that limits the options, you have to be in the capybara/beaver/porcupine range. But it seems so narrow for any of them… I’m a geologist though, so what do I know?

    In for a penny, in for a pound, I’ll have a wild stab in the dark at the Brush-Tailed Porcupine, Atherurus.

  4. Hmm… Leaning heavily on the comments, I agree with David that it appears to be a Hystricid. The doming of the skull makes me think Hystrix rather than Atherurus, though given the angle of the photograph I could well be misleading myself there. Don’t think I can get it comfortably to species though, at least not without some time.

      • The wife is at a baby shower and I am trying to avoid the chores I should be doing…
        Hmm, given the size I am now leaning towards the subgenus Hystrix.

        Having consulted Barthelmess 2006 and then Corbet and Jones 1965, eyeballing the relative size of the nasals makes me think Hystrix cristata. Hard to tell from the photo the proportions of the premaxilla or the true width of the vertical process of the maxilla. I suppose I could put the photo into imageJ and do some real comparison but I’d probably better vacuum the living room.

  5. Is it a malagasey from Madagascar or maybe one of them new giant friendly rats from new guineau!!

    It’s definately a rodent though isn’t it?

    Matt

  6. As a complete non-scientist, having strayed into unfamiliar territory from the New Light on Old Bones blog, I will give you all a laugh, and go for a mole or a shrew.

    • Nice try though Susan. I tend to forget about the scale bar and cause much hilarity among the knowledgeable. On the other hand people with no biology training whatsoever, e.g. Zygoma’s family, have been known to just glance at the FMO on his phone and get straightaway things that have baffled people with PhDs

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