Friday mystery object #189 answer

On Friday I gave you this skull to have a go at identifying:


I didn’t do a very good job of responding to comments I’m afraid, as I was rather busy at day two of this year’s Natural Sciences Collections Association conference at the Yorkshire Museum. Nonetheless, you managed to work out what this specimen came from without any input from me.

Jake spotted that it was the skull of a big reptile, more importantly, a big reptile with heterodont dentition (meaning it’s teeth aren’t all the same shape). That narrowed down the possibilities considerably. From there henstridgesj, Wouter van Gestel and Barbara Powell came to the conclusion that this is the skull of a Gold Tegu Tupinambis teguixin (Linneaus, 1758).

Tupinambis teguixin © 2006 Carla Antonini

These large South American lizards fill a similar environmental niche to the monitor lizards of the Old World and have a broadly similar skull morphology to the land monitors – except monitor lizards have the same kind of pointy teeth throughout the jaws. Monitors are largely carnivorous, which explains the need for the pointy teeth, but Tegus are more omnivorous and as they get older they increase the amount of fruit and vegetation in their diet and rely less on small mammals, birds and reptiles. This varied diet explains the need for more diversity in the teeth.

Apologies for the short and late post today – lots of problems with the internet!

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