On Friday I was in rather a rush as I was involved in co-organising this year’s Natural Science Collections Association (or NatSCA) conference. It was a very enjoyable (if hectic) few days of natural history nerdery, but left me limited time to select an object from the FMO. I took my opportunity at the drinks reception at the Grant Museum of Zoology where I tried out the camera on my new phone to get an image of this specimen:
Now it was a fairly easy one to identify as the skull of these animals is very distinctive. Nonetheless, if you haven’t seen the skull of one of these animals before it is a bit of an oddity, with that spike in the face and the apparently strongly protruding maxilla and mandible (which is actually due to unusually elevated frontals).
These animals are relatives of horses and rhinos, in the Order Perissodactyla. They live in the rainforests of Malaysia and Sumatra, feeding on vegetation and generally staying near water. They have a prehensile trunk, which is why they have such an unusual configuration of the frontal, maxillary and nasal bones.
These animals are now classed as endangered, as their habitat has been seriously compromised by deforestation and the animals themselves are killed by hunters. Perhaps the Tapir massacre scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey alluded to by Carlos contains more truth about our species than we might like…