Friday mystery object #166

I’ve not been working in the collections much over the summer, which means I’ve been relying on a stockpile of photos for the mystery object. I’ve finally run out of specimens from the Horniman this week, so I have a mystery object that I photographed at the fantastic Grant Museum of Zoology for you to have a go at identifying (apologies for the indifferent quality of the photo):

You can put your suggestions, questions and observations below (preferably in a cryptic format) and I’ll do my best to respond.

I’ll be back in the collections from next week, so there will be some fresh Horniman specimens coming to light!

19 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #166

  1. In this game there’s no such thing as “too easy.” This one certainly wasn’t easy for me. We’ve all seen so many photographs and likenesses of this animal with clothes on, but stripped bare is another thing. I like it that I got instant gratification after pondering such a peculiar skull that is unlike virtually every mammal I’ve ever known. I like it that the smarmy responses gave it up in a cute manner right away. Now, I’d like it even more if people explained why this skull looks the way it does. Small eye sockets, nocturnal and doesn’t see so hot? Thick bones? For crushing and possibly for weathering bad falls? The skull isn’t a caste, is it? If so, that would explain part of the reason it doesn’t look right.

  2. From the dentition I knew it was a carnivore and because it looks stocky and robust I would have started with bears and their allies, rather than the graceful-looking big cats or the long snouts of the canids. That said, I wouldn’t have been able to guess the answer without all of your hints! Like Mr. Garber, I’d love to hear how you all came to your correct conclusions.

    • i have been thinking of how I knew what it is and that is harder than just saying it ;-). anyhow, I envisioned the skull with muscles, eyes, skin and fur and that gave it away. especially the shape of the nose area, combined with the eye sockets in such a heavy skull did it for me. It was the first animal that came up and after checking it seemed, and apparently was, right.

  3. I’m usually much better at skulls, particularly mammalian ones, so I tried really hard to work this one out without looking at the comments this time. I went for the dental formula approach and ruled out most, if not all, the major placental mammalian carnivores. (I started like Rhea with bears and their kin.) Then I went to marsupials. A few google image searches later and I had it.

    • Here’s a quick way to distinguish marsupial skulls from placentals (I think — I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong): In marsupials the Lacrimal Foramina is on the edge, or outside, the orbit; in placentals it is well inside. In this skull it can been seen on the edge. (I learned that here last year, so it must be true.)

  4. The proportions are about the same as a T-rex.
    I went through Skulls Unlimited site for each species it might have been in a new tab, then opened each possible skull in a new tab and worked through them. When someone said marsupial I looked at those first.

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