This week I have seen an awful lot of mystery objects at work as I’ve been sorting through some of the boxes of unidentified bone with my volunteers Cat and Jahcob. Mostly we seem to have hundreds of unlabelled sheep vertebrae, but there have been some genuinely interesting objects too.
Alas, without my camera I’ve not been able to take photos of any of this miscellanea – maybe next week… However, I do have a photo of a skull, taken before the death of my camera, that I think is pretty cool (if perhaps a little obvious for some of you):
So, do you have any idea what this beastie might be?
As usual put your questions, suggestions and observations in the comments section below, which I will do my best to respond to. Good luck!
Hmm. Again a nice big saggital crest, but the animal itself is pretty small. Those teeth look fairly undifferentiated for a mammal.
So I reckon based on that its an “insectivore” of some sort- and possibly a big one. Its not a mole, but I’m not sure quite how else to interpret that tiny eye socket.
Nice rationale based on the dentition. The eye is indeed tiny, but this isn’t a mole.
When you say “not a mole”, are we ruling out all the Taplidae?
So it’s not a Desman either?
It’s not a member of the Talpidae, so the Desmans are ruled out…
I’m starting to think its some kind of shrew. The eye looks about right for some of the skulls, but the whole thing just seems too big.
Could the Giant Rat of Sumatra in fact be a shrew. And in your very collection? Are you sure the world is ready for this?
It’s not a shrew, nor the Giant Rat of Sumatra – although that would be awesome!
Based on the bits of everyone’s answers and a confirming google search I’ll say its a Tenrec. But I’d not have got it otherwise. Not a group I’ve seen defleshed before before. Its an impressive set of jaw muscles there, there must be some pretty hefty insects for it to eat.
Is it a mammalian insectivore?
I think a lot of my regulars are at Science Online London (live stream here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/science-online-london-2010) I would be there myself, except I’m off to a wedding this afternoon. Last year’s conference was excellent and the discussion I’ve been listening to this year is really interesting.
As to mammalian, click the pic for higher rez and check the mandible – it’s composed of just the dentary, so that should tell you!
Is it an adult animal?
I don’t think otherwise, but want to check.
Yep – this is an adult.
How about something from the Galericinae?
Moonrats are very similar ecologically and morphologically, although as you now know, it’s not one of them.
OOOH! It’s Friday, and that can only mean Paolo’s Mystery Object, which is the highlight of my week. But what’s this? It’s the skull of a biggish small mammal with almost no eyes. The dentition looks pretty primitive – all those undifferentiated molariform teeth. It look insectivoran – a hedgehog perhaps? No, not that. The general shape of the skull suggests edentate, but there are all those very toothy teeth. I don’t think you’re doing another koala on us. In which case I’m stumped.
Can you be sure it’s not the skull of a small biggish animal though? Insectivoran it is, although what that means is a bit of contentious issue with the developments in mammalian phylogeny and taxonomy in the last decade or so…
I’ve got it – it’s a Lesser or Herbaceous Backson. Either that, or it’s a CORRECT. Your clue about mammalian phylogeny gave it to me – CORRECT GROUP are insectivore-like creatures from Madagascar which the new-look mammalian phylogeny places in the Afrotheria along with elephants, hyraxes, aarvarks and other stuff.
Very good! Although I thought it was a Spotted or Herbaceous Backson…
Looks like a CORRECT GROUP judging from the teeth and small eyes. Maybe the Common or CORRECT ANSWER (CORRECT SPECIES)?
Why didn’t I think of that?
That’s a great answer.
…and the right one…
And, apparently, correct. No point me repeating it anyway.
Congratulations – you did it again!
Yay! Maybe I should reassess my future as a behavioral primatologist.
Clearly an ‘insectivore’, as others have said (and as you’ve confirmed). I did wonder for a while if it was a solenodon, but, especially given the comments above, I’m pretty confident it’s actually a common CORRECT ANSWER (CORRECT SPECIES).
I’m not going to be able to narrow it down to species, but I believe that it’s probably a CORRECT skull. Although, judging from everyone else’s clues, I’d go for CORRECT SPECIES. Is that cheating?
The koala was much easier! Got that straight away.