Friday mystery object #82


This Friday I’m going for a mystery object that I’m sure you will all identify to species without any problem – it’s pretty big and pretty distinctive. Hopefully this object will give me a chance to write an interesting answer on Monday, so I can use it as a stand-alone post for a guest blogging spot I’m doing for Scientopia for a couple of weeks starting on Sunday. I’m intending to use this guest-spot to get myself motivated to tackle the various posts I’ve been wanting to cover for some time now.

Unfortunately, I’ve managed to time this slot quite badly, since I also need to prepare for a SITP talk that I’m giving on Monday 21st Feb and a Cafe Scientifique on the evening of Thurday 24th Feb (if you missed the last one, here’s the write-up). It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks…

On to the reason you came here – the Friday mystery object:

Any idea what this is?

As usual you can put your suggestions, comments and questions below and I’ll do my best to offer guidance. Good luck!

50 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #82

  1. From sheer size I was wondering about Dire Wolf? Or is that maybe too big? Also the snout looks a little too compact.

    My other thought was domestic dog, something like an Irish Wolfhound.

    • Average Dire wolf skulls are about 29cm long (maximum known is about 33cm) I think – so this is probably in the lower range for Canis dirus.

      Although it isn’t one.

  2. Quite pleased with myself for thinking “dog” before I read the comments. Big doggy, ooh-what-big-teeth-you-have-grandma doggy. But bigger even than a wolf and with a different shape jaw … a marsupial wolf? Wild guess that!

  3. It looks pretty doggy to me. I’m going for a domestic dog, since many breeds have changed shape considerably in the last hundred years or so. One of the giant breeds, possibly a great dane?

  4. Shall we work our way through the breeds? 😉

    Ok, Bernese Mountain dog. I have to say, I’ll be very impressed with your reference selection if you have it to an exact breed!

    • There’s a story relating to that actually – have you not seen our dog head and skull wall? Take a look here. I think this may be a specimen that didn’t make the selection for the wall.

    • I see somebody has already guessed mastiff, and that’s been ruled out. (Well, okay, there are other mastiffs besides the bull, so its still possible, I guess). Rachel’s suggestion of Newfoundland makes sense, though.

  5. Marsupials don’t have a sclerotic ring, so Tasmanian Devil is out. I thought you said your skull has two sclerotic rings. If that’s the case, it sounds like they don’t belong there. Crocodilians don’t have them, mammals don’t have them. You said this organism isn’t extinct. So if it exists, it’s probably a hoax or made for TV or for a photo shoot of some sort. Like maybe to look like a dinosaur skull, even though it isn’t.

  6. It’s definitely a canine, with those carnassials it’s not a bear or a seal. If it’s not a large dog breed it must be some kind of wolf.

    • I suspect its too large, even for a spotted hyena, which is the biggest living species. Significantly, however, hyenids have exceptionally large teeth, for cracking through solid bone, which this animal does not.

      The shape of the skull and teeth say to me that it’s definitely a canid, and a member of the genus Canis at that. It can, however, be really tricky to tell the different members of this genus apart on the basis of shape alone.
      The clue here is the size of the thing – were it not for that, it would be hard to rule out a coyote or jackal without looking very closely indeed.

      However, its so large that I think we can be confident in saying that it’s either an exceptionally large wolf, or some breed of domestic dog. Getting it down to the exact breed is, I feel sure, the only remaining question. (And a number of options have yet to be ruled out on that front).

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