Friday mystery object #270

This Friday I have another mystery object for you from the Grant Museum of Zoology:


This one is a bit of a tricky one, so I’m not sure the usual cryptic clues will be necessary – I’d love to hear your thoughts to see if you agree with my thoughts…

Have fun with this one!

39 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #270

  1. grrr…. well at the least i can say it’s not another marsupial this time. 😉 my first guess from the side view, the shape was some mustelid, but the teeth don’t match. strike 1. looking from the upper palate it’s roundness and flat face made me think of a ring-tailed cat… but the teeth don’t match. strike 2. ?? i better save my last strike.
    random observations:
    deep, strong coracoid process, large zygomatic arch… strong bite, based on the sagittal crest i’d guess it’s male. reduced, pegged final molar. lack of auditory bulla is strange.

      • Hmmmmm. So, it is, at the least either similar to the Mustelidae family or possibly a member of the family, but not a badger. My first instinct was to guess honey badger specifically, but then it didn’t seem heavy enough. I’m not an expert at this by any means 🙂

  2. Well, counting the incisors (and noting that there don’t seem to be large gaping holes in the palate), I’d say it is … a PLACENTAL mammal. Bone looks too fresh to be a fossil, so… I think the only order that has things that look like this is Carnivora. So the upper carnassial is P4. So there are only two upper molars on each side, and the second one is vestigial. (Dogs have only two molars on each side of the upper jaw, but the second one is bigger than this.)
    I think I’m with Marcus in voting for one of the families N and V (or maybe H?)… which means I’m also with the people who think it’s not from North America.
    So that’s my first guess. Don’t know if I’ll get any further…

  3. Hmmm… Joe Vans remarks on the “strange” lack of an auditory bulla. Isn’t there an odd creature in the N/V/H part of the feloidea that’s noted for NOT having an (ossified) bulla?

  4. Yes. N……. has an “incomplete” bulla (which is why it gets its own monotypic family N). But the one photo I’ve found on the web of a N……. skull doesn’t look quite right.

  5. Just confirming a bit. Too many teeth to be a Mustelid (they seem to reduce the number of premolars from 4 to 3)(). So, if it IS from North America (which I don’t think it is), think Raccoon.
    ) Or skunk, since Mephitidae is no longer though of as part of Mustelidae.

  6. I too am going with V family. All the technical speak of ossified bullas is what convinced me. Googled a few specimens and they seem, overall, to match – particularly the narrow lower jaw.

    So is this the animal that allegedly makes the world’s best coffee?

    • I have to say that, being a non-specialist, I am going with a gestalt impression rather than suggesting dentition is usually but can be reduced, though never so much as in the cats…

  7. Realized that the Feliform carnivorans include TWO families with names starting with H: when I added H to N and V as a possibility I was thinking of the He……… and not the Hy……. (I’m glad Paolo isn’t insisting on CRYPTIC hints for this one!).

    Anyway, the Wikipedia article on the type species (?) of the He family (He. ich.) has a drawing of the skull: over-all gestalt (in terms of the proportions of snout and cranium, and the extreme narrowness of the skull in front of the braincase) is very similar to this, so I think V/N/H is definitely the right region. But this is not H.i.: it has a prominent bulla, and its last upper molar isn’t as extremely reduced. So for the moment I’m guessing N (tentatively, and assuming the photo of an N skull at the “Skulls Unlimited” website is taken from a misleading angle…).

    (But Paolo thought this one was tricky, so it shouldn’t be that easy! There are a lot of species of V and He, so maybe there’s one that’s a better match!)

    • Joe Vans–
      Thank you! Yes, N.b. is the critter I was thinking of and yes, it’s very different from this week’s puzzle! As you say, back to the drawing board! … Any chance that this week’s animal HAS an ossified bulla, and that its absence in the photo Paolo posted is due to post-mortem damage? (Note that in one of the views of N.b. that you link to, the tympanic ring is very visible.)
      Your report that V and He are not easy to view is… disheartening, because I still think they are the most likely homes for this specimen.

    • My thinking is that Paolo had N. b. As specimen number 143 in this series. I am still going with V group because of the way in which the orbits accommodate the mandible, which is not the case (as far as I can tell) with the Herpestids. I just don’t think this is a palm civet. But closely related I would guess.

      • Not having looked at a full range of He and V skulls… From a small sample quickly Googled, it looks as if MOST species of He have proportionally shorter snouts, and what looks like a raised “hump” in the skull roof over the orbits. So… V.
        But I don’t think I can narrow it down any more than that.

  8. You and me both, mate.

    Have tried looking up Binturong skulls. Not close.

    Linsangs? Nope.

    So stuck thinking it’s some sort of civet, but not an African Palm Civet.

    And oh yes, doesn’t seem to be a genet either.

    Still convinced it’s a viverrid though.

    How embarrassed will I be if I have got the wrong clade altogether?

    Oh yes, spoiler alert etc. But I think Paolo’s post suggested he was looking for genuine identification and didn’t need us to be cryptic this week. That’s my excuse, anyway.

    • Sorry. That was supposed to be a reply to Allen.

      In any case, I have looked up various skulls, none posed and shot as well as Paolo’s offerings, and am resigned to the notion that this may, yes, actually be another example of specimen #143. Yes an African Palm Civet.

      Best I can do, and I doubt it will help Paolo.

      Ah well…

  9. As it was said not to be cryptic I’m going straight in with Nandinia… Not that it looks quite the same but nothing else quite seems to fit either.

  10. OK! Just found this:

    and a google image search throws up these:

    I think we may have a winner – the dentition seems an exact match and the roundedness of the orbits seems a better fit than Nandinia as well.

    Friday can’t come quickly enough, I have to say…

  11. I posted earlier today my triumphant belief that I had nailed it. But it was from the work machine and when I left it said my comment was awaiting moderation.


    Anyway, I think it’s G. b.

    Make of that what you will.

  12. hmmm… i agree G. maculate looks like a really good fit…. but what about the bulla? the ones on the skulls i find online are rather large and seem to extend to the margin of the skull, angled slightly in towards the mandibular fossa. paolo’s skull doesn’t seem to have those, and in fact seems to have swellings that angle away.
    ?? must be close, but i’d still guess no cigar. ??

  13. Haven’t tried to measure, but Paolo’s beastie seems a bit narrower in the skull than G. mac.? Teeth do look like a good match, though.
    How about: Genet, with severe post-mortem damage to both bullas?

    • I like that idea: perhaps an enraged genet husband, having disposed of his love rival, continued to produce post Morton damage. This now becomes something of a whodunnit: The genet always rings twice!

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