Last week I gave you this mystery object from the Grant Museum of Zoology to get your thoughts on:
Most people spotted that this was a canid of some sort – but there was a lot of discussion about exactly what sort.
Allen Hazen made an interesting observation about the reduced second molar (missing in the specimen, but the socket shows that it was there and smaller than you’d expect from most dogs), plus the remarkably convex facial profile. Useful observations that have a bearing on the identification.
The short and broad muzzle, combined with the convex skull and distinctive molar morphology led Latinka Hristova to suggest Dhole, an identification agreed with by Lupen, palfreyman1414, Richard Lawrence, joe vans, Henry McGhie – and myself as it turns out.
The Dhole Cuon alpinus (Pallas, 1811) is an endangered Asiatic Wild Dog, that hunts in clans and feeds on a variety of medium to large mammals that are usually killed after an extended chase.
I’d not seen the skull of one of these before, but I was aware that they have a convex profile, so it was my immediate suspicion when I saw the mystery object and the species was confirmed by the unusually simple structure of the first molar and very reduced second molar, which are almost cat-like in their adaptation for shearing meat.
All in all, an exciting skull to find – and there are other unidentified canids in the same box that I’m itching to take a look at, so keep your eyes peeled for more mystery mutts.
I’m still calling it Canis floresiensis: this is clearly the skull of some leprosied, or otherwise long term illnessed animal that is actually a grey wolf. Or some such…
Dagnabbit! Why did I not get Dhole first time out if the box? I’ve read The Jungle Books (“Red Dog”) too many times, and seen documentaries on the buggers often enough, to have not got it. May I say that, though I want to kiss the ground Latinka walks on, I still hate her to bits?