Last week I gave you this skull from the Grant Museum of Zoology to identify:
I thought it was a fairly easy one and, from the slew of correct cryptic answers, I think many of you spotted what it was quite quickly. However, if you’re not familiar with this sort of abstract critter, you probably found it more of a challenge.
In terms of physical characteristics, the vacuities (holes) in the palate are a sure indicator that this is a marsupial – as Allen Hazen pointed out. He also recognised that it has a broad head and short rostrum (nose) for a marsupial, narrowing down the possibilities – particularly for an animal of this size – Wombats or Koalas.
For me these two main options can be quickly distinguished by looking at the zygomatic arch, which is high at the rear and runs downward in the Koala, but which runs horizontally in Wombats. The skull of the Koala is also very square and flat on top, whereas Wombats have a more domed braincase.
Many of the cryptic clues referred to bears, since these animals are often called a Koala Bear for some bizarre reason – I must say that I’ve never seen much similarity between a Koala and a Bear, although once upon a time people thought Red Pandas were bearlike as well and I suppose the two species have some fuzzy, tree climbing and specialist-diet type similarities.
So well done to everyone who managed to identify the specimen and provide some great cryptic clues, especially Chris who was first on the scene with a reference to bears and the obscure ‘pap’ which is the first solid food of Koala joeys, which is partially broken down eucalyptus released from the caecum of the mother.
A special mention for palfreyman1414 who was tenacious is working out the mystery and who also managed to provide a reference to a story I’d not heard before about a man in New Zealand who reported an unlikely incident to Police and got in some trouble for it.