Last week I gave you this mystery object from the Grant Museum of Zoology to have a go at identifying:
If you’ve been checking the mystery object recently you’ll notice that this specimen has a feature of the palate that I made reference to in the answer to mystery object #267 – the Tasmanian Devil. It’s incompletely ossified, which is a characteristic of marsupials.
The large curved canines and pointed premolars suggest some predatory activity, while the flattened molars suggest some grinding of vegetation, making this one of the marsupial omnivores, in the Order Peramelemorphia.
The large size of the skull and the long curved canines make this specimen rather distinctive – as first spotted by Richard Lawrence, this is indeed a Greater Bilby Macrotis lagotis (Reid, 1837).
These rabbit-eared antipodean oddities are true true to their omnivorous teeth, eating anything from spiders and lizards to roots and fruits. Their population is in decline thanks to habitat loss, competition from the similarly-sized Rabbits and predation by feral Cats.
There used to be a species of Lesser Bilby, but they went extinct back in the 1950s, presumably because their smaller size made them an even more convenient meal for introduced predators.
I’ll leave you with a nice video showing a scan of the skull of a Greater Bilby that Allen Hazen shared in a somewhat unsuccessful attempt to leave a cryptic clue – Youtube’s automatic embedding in comments is a nice feature, but evidently not always an expected one…