Friday mystery object #153 answer


On Friday I gave you this fragment of an object to identify:

Many of the key features we look for when making an identification of a skull are in the facial region. The teeth are the most useful feature, but the relative proportions of the rostrum (muzzle) in the context of the whole skull and the particulars of the various elements that interconnect to make a skull all contain useful information.

It’s rather similar to recognising a person in fact – it’s much easier when you can see their face than it is when all you can see is the back of their head.

So how did everyone do? Well, there were various suggestions as to what it might be, but it was basically a guessing game, relying mainly on scale, gross morphology and the shape of the auditory bullae (aka the bulbous bit containing the ear bones). Most guesses focussed on the carnivores although there were some large rodents suggested.

I thought henstridgesj might have worked it out when he asked ‘Are the bullae double-chambered? Possibly, I can’t really tell, but if they are then it’s in the suborder Feliformia‘ and I answered in the affirmative, but the most obvious answer was somehow missed.

This object is almost certainly the rear part of the skull of a Domestic Cat Felis catus Linnaeus, 1758.

There is a possibility that it could be from one of the other small cat species out there, but given that it has been deliberately cut for display it seems unlikely that a rare or unusual species would have been used in this way.

The useful thing about making this identification is that it means I can now look for other Cat specimens that are missing the back of the skull (which may still be on display) and I should at least be able to reunite the parts on our database, if not put them back in the same box.

I expect there will be more of this kind of object as I work through my box of miscellanea, so be ready for some more detective work!

4 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #153 answer

  1. I had to double-check that the new image was of the same specimen. The back of the skull looks completely different; it’s amazing what a difference a rotation of just a few degrees can make. It certainly had me fooled, but I’ve had great fun trying to ID it, and I’ve learned some new facts. Many thanks, Paolo!

    • Yep, a tiny bit of rotation makes all the difference – that’s the problem with 2D representations of specimens and that’s why no image gallery is a match for a good comparative collection!

    • That’s often the way of it. I’ve often found a fragment, got excited and then realised it was from something obvious and I had it upside down…

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