Friday mystery object #66 answer


On Friday I gave you this mystery object:

I thought it would be too easy, but I hadn’t factored in that it is the skull of a juvenile, which makes it much harder to identify from just a photograph. I did drop a few hints about what it might be on Twitter when I said it was ‘easy as pie’ and I had a hard time restraining myself from making a give-away comment about it flying when Jake asked if it was a big bat.

Manabu Sakamoto spotted that it was a juvenile and that the canine-like teeth were quite distinctive of a particular group. Neil managed to convey that he knew the answer with a beautifully subtle comment:

After rooting around a bit I think that I have sussed out the answer.

The answer being Pig Sus scrofa Linnaeus, 1758. If I’d said it was as easy as pork-pie then that would have been a total give-away and I just wish I’d though using ‘sussed’ as a clue.

There are several problems with identifying the skulls of juvenile animals, since they are still in the process of changing into the adult form. Sutures between different bones are not fused, the braincase is relatively large since the brain tends to do much its development early on, so is bigger than other parts that will keep growing for longer. The eyes are also relatively bigger for the same reason. The deciduous milk teeth tend to be a bit different to the permanent adult teeth and while the teeth are emerging it is difficult to spot the characteristic dental formula that can help a lot when identifying mammals. Because the proportions of the skull of a juvenile will be different to an adult it means that even the skulls of quite familiar animals can become hard to identify.

So congratulations to those of you who spotted that this is the skull of a piglet and commiserations to those of you who worked so hard to make sense of the weird combination of characteristics that this specimen shows.

2 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #66 answer

    • Likewise – very interesting talk, I particularly liked the tangential nature of your delivery! I particularly liked the one about the birthday card for the manuscript, I’ll have to do that next time I have a paper that sits in review for over a year!

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