35 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #278

  1. On second thoughts ignore that suggestion, as I think it’s too wide in the muzzle. I’m crap at wild mammals!

  2. I was going to try to be clever and suggest a thylacine skull, but the auditory bullae (look ma I learned a new anatomy term!) seem definitely to suggest a canid. Maybe even THE ur-canid…

      • Oh dear. So my rather common interpretation is not going to work. Must look up skulls of Simien’s wolves then…

        Autoimmune disorders not the thing then?

  3. Having trouble telling– is the rough area to the rear of the molar the socket for a very small second molar? If so, the dental formula seems consistent with a Canid identity. Going out on a limb… is reduction in the second (upper) molar correlated with hypercarnivory in Canids?
    (I’m pretty sure it isn’t a Thylacine, at least: not enough incisors for a polyprotodont marsupial. And– without having looked at a Thylacine skull– I’d expect a marsupial to have more in the way of palatal vacuities.)

    • If you click on the image you should get the large version, which makes it a bit easier to see. There is indeed a socket for a very small second molar. I think that this is related to an increase in shearing efficiency, which does hint at hypercarnivory – well spotted!

  4. Well, standard (domestic, wolf) dogs have smaller second upper molars than I remembered, so maybe…
    But domestic dogs (tend to- LOTS of variation) have markedly concave profile where the snout meets the … ummm … rest of the skull (how’s that for technical terminology) and this doesn’t have any concavity in the profile. So I’m going to say NOT a domestic dog.

  5. It doesn’t look like a domestic dog to me; as someone mentioned earlier most domestics seem to have more of a concave profile, and this skull’s muzzle is very short and wide as well. I’m going to have to go with Latinka’s guess for now!

  6. I looked up both dhole and alsatian earlier, but both seemed to have concavities of the snout that doesn’t match the convexity of this one. I was particularly hopeful of the dhole since it (like servals, strangely, speaking of a completely different group of carnivores) has no nasal stop but something akin to a Roman nose. But the skull seemed not to match.

    I hope I am wrong and Latinka is right: it will at least prove my first instincts were good.

    • I paid more attention to the ventral side of the skull. The teeth morphology (especially the protocone shape and size), the shape and position of the presphenoid, the basisphenoid, the auditory bulla and the rest of the bones, the foramens… Unfortunately, I didn’t find good picture of ventral side of a Cuon skull, and we have not such skull at our collection to do precise comparison. Therefore I am not 100 % sure for my suggestion, but the logic of my thoughts was the reason to guess this is a Cuon skull.
      From what I know from the fossil horses, the facial region of the skull could have high plasticity, and could experienced some individual changes on its morphology. Especially if the specimen we are talking about is from a zoo.That is why I am prone to accept some differences in its facial morphology if compare with the Cuon skulls on internet.

  7. The only skull we’ve seen with less teeth is the Varanus skull in our collection that died of old age. All this unfilled holes bug me…premolar dentition is tough enough. 3 or 4 total PM? It matters. But if it’s 4 I might be off to Africa for some social painting.

  8. Always interesting to come here and see what others think. I’d intended to cast my vote for the African laughing and singing Rembrandt. Nice to see I’m not alone at the party.

  9. Cuon seems a close match to me; lovely heart shaped hind margin to the palate seems distinctive when combined with general shape and dentition.

  10. general shape looks similar to the cuon skulls online, but all of them appear to have much larger infraorbital foramen. could be the angle of the photos.

  11. i forgot to add as to a grey fox… definitely not, as the temporal ridge is V shaped not U as in Urocycon. Vulpes is V was always my mnemonic device in mammalogy.

  12. Given repeated instances of the Dh word in comments, I looked at the W~pedia article on that critter: there’s a drawing of a skull, and it looks as if it might be a reasonable match. But given the size of the Canidae (30-odd extant species, isn’t it?) I’m not very confident: for all I know the Ruritanian Ferret-fox (not illustrated ANYWHERE!) might be an even better match.
    (Fictitious example: point is that there are lots to choose from and I don’t have enough pictures to compare…)

  13. I concur with Allen. The overall shape and dental formula screams canid, however, the relatively shortness of the muzzle seems strange to me. I most commonly see Canis mesomelas, adustus and on occasion Vulpes chama, all of which have a long and slightly concave muzzle. The canidae family is such a large and diverse one, that without proper comparative material, accurate identifications seems improbable. The only canids I can seem to find with such short convex muzzles, is our friend the Asian whistling dog (as mentioned above) or the South american “cachorro-vinagre”.

    • I did consider the Bush Dog, but they have very well-developed second molars, which ruled them out. It would be great if there was a better online resource for canid skull identification!

    • Hey! It’s almost definitely Cuon, as you and several others have mentioned. Concave profile, reduced molar cusps, tiny M2, and tiny protocone on the P4. Speothos is nice call, though – however, Speothos totally lacks a maxillary M2 (and lacks a mandibular M3, as well!).

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