Friday mystery object #48 answer


On Friday I gave you this lovely skull to identify:

It seems to have been a bit more tricky than I had expected. It was immediately identified as a carnivore, which is spot-on, but from there it got a bit murky. I must admit that I could have been a bit more generous with clues, particularly when David Craven asked if this was a viverrid (the family containing the civets) – I took the question at the family level, so I said ‘no’, but I should probably have asked for clarification since this skull belongs to a member of a family that falls into the infraorder Viverroidea (according to some sources).

This is in fact the skull of a Mongoose Herpestes sp. – I wish I could be more precise about what kind of mongoose, but the only information with the specimen is the name Herpestes betongiensis, which is not a valid species and I have never encountered the name anywhere before. I assume that the species name relates to Betong in Thailand or Malaysia, so this may well be a species of mongoose from there. I will have to do more research to identify this correctly, but the Southeast Asian link may give me a good place to start looking. Herpestes brachyurus Gray, 1836 would fit in terms of distribution – but there are others from the same region and there is a need for more work to see if they are different species or subspecies and how they are related.

Perhaps I should pull together a post on carnivore skulls, to give a few pointers about what to look for in the main groups? Lots of pretty skulls…

8 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #48 answer

  1. Oh, it’s a mongoose!

    Skull identification for beginners would be good, at the moment I do it largely by guessing an animal name and then searching for “[animal name] skull” on google.

    • Noted – I’ve been wanting to do something along those lines for ages, but ideally I’d like it to be in wiki structure so other museums can offer their specimens and expertise to provide a really comprehensive resource… long term plan though and it needs to start somewhere!

  2. I think that would be a good post/series Paolo.

    To be fair, even if you’d come back and clarified about Viverroidea it wouldn’t have mattered. I’ve been away all weekend and looking at the pic on my mobile, so didn’t really have time or the resolution to really think that hard about it. Plus, I was taking your “not a cat, well, not a felid” comment to be a hint towards Civets.

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