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!
My first guess is at a squirrel, though I’m think from the angle the nose cavities might look a bit bulbous..?
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.
As a Canadian I have to ask – is it a beaver?
Not a beaver – their incisors are much broader and they have a very flat-topped and squared-off skull shape.
Those front teeth look “rodenty” but I seem to recall that bunnies et al are not rodents.
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.
Funny you should say that – I was thinking of using one of those as the mystery object this week. But I didn’t in the end…
Second guess for me is a Porcupine, and I’ll stop guessing now.
Here lies the trouble with rodents – there are so many of them! There is also a large amount of convergence, so something called a porcupine could include any of over two dozen species in two very different families… and that’s assuming it’s even a porcupine!
I’m going for THE CORRECT ANSWER.
Those teeth look like shovels! So a burrowing or digging animal of some kind? .. I wish I automatically thought in metric .. a tapir?
You’re on to something relating to the mode of life, but the teeth are wrong for a tapir.
yes, I realised as soon as I’d posted! Have a mental image of something but can’t think what it’s called. Saw it in NHM in Dublin … Grrr.
I’d go with large rabbit or hare.
And that’s definitely no tapir. Too small, and they don’t have teeth like that.
That’d be a VERY large rabbit or hare. Although I have seen some pretty vast rabbits in my time.
Remind me never to check my twitter favourites on a Friday, can’t think of anything else… and why did I not take that comparative zoology class
Some sort of Agouti?
Not too far off, but not quite there…
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…
Yep – bit too big for a Coypu and there is a lot of nasal inflation and the eyes are positioned way too low.
Is it a relative of the giant rat from the film The Princess Bride?
An RUS (Rodent of Unusual Size)? Most definitely!
Thats it lol I couldn’t remember what they called them in the film 🙂
Is it a coypu ? I used http://www.skullsite.co.uk and it’s the only one that’s close.
Oh, it’s not, I see now
Patagonian Cavy ?
It’s not a Mara, although it’s a similar size (a bit bigger and heavier).
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?
We are lecturers. We always respond to questions with follow-up questions ,,,,
It’s not some kind of marsupial is it?
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?
Is it S American?
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 ….
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.
Oooh, very good! Not quite in the gold, but you are certainly shooting with good accuracy.
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.
Good observations, but I will remain silent for now…
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.
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?
Definitely a rodent.
I’ve changed my mind, it’s a porcupine – but is it new world or old world? My guess is old world!
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.
The scale bar is the first place to look – most moles (never mind shrews) have a body size smaller than the length of this skull!
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