Friday mystery object #348 answer

Last week I gave you this mystery object to try your hand at identifying:


It was both a bit tricky and a bit easy. It was tricky because it’s the skull of a cat, and as I’ve discussed before, cats are a morphologically conservative group that are quite difficult to differentiate between, due to their relatively recent divergence as a group. It was easy because of the context provided by the previous mystery object, as commented on by Wouter van Gestel who immediately worked out what this skull came from.

This is the skull of a large male Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa (Griffith, 1821). These beautiful, elusive and rare big cats from Asia have the longest canines in relation to body size of all the modern cats – making them an occasional comparison for the sabre-toothed cats of prehistory.

Clouded Leopard in Cincinnati Zoo, Charles Barilleaux, 2012.

Clouded Leopard in Cincinnati Zoo, Charles Barilleaux, 2012.

Although they may look adorable, they use those long canines to take down a variety of vertebrate prey, including monkeys, deer and even armoured snack-beasts like Asiatic porcupines and the overly-put-upon pangolins. They are one of the few truly arboreal cats, able to climb head-first down trees and even scoot along the underside of branches, giving them an advantage as an ambush hunter in forest environments.

So well done to everyone who figured that the mystery skull belonged to this fantastic feline!

5 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #348 answer

  1. I must say it was most convenient that just last week I had such a skull in my hands when I visited a friend who collects cat skeletons. Even for him it is one of the more special ones. But indeed the clouded leopard is famous among skull collectors for its spectacular canines, and it is rare as well. It is a “horse category” species (that is one category below “holy grail”), comparable with gorilla, leopard seal, shoebill, gharial etc.

  2. Bugger. And from the online images I looked at, the canines looked shorter than I expected.

    Worse, I tried to be clever and used “clouded leopard auditory bullæ” as a search for images. I found only two that were images of feline auditory bullæ, and one of them was tagged as from the website of….

    Yes, Paolo Viscardi.

    Ah well…

    • They aren’t very large, and are unlikely to attack a human. I saw a documentary about a team in northeast India that rehabbed and returned to the wild a pair of orphaned siblings: very friendly and playful. About lynx size? Gorgeous coats.

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