Friday mystery object #384

This week I have a skull for you to have a go at identifying:


Just the side view this time as the skull is still attached to the rest of the skeleton, which I think might make it a bit too easy.

Any idea which species this skull comes from? As ever you can leave your thoughts, questions and suggestions in the comments below. Have fun!

23 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #384

    • Palfreyman——
      There is a (quite species, to make this one harder!) clade of small mammals who don’t HAVE Wossnames. (Several other people seem to be looking at this group.) Hint: not as closely related to Tenrecs as once thought.
      (Though, with a 60mm skull length, this would have to be a big one.)

  1. I’m thinking something more aquatic and with a double (or perhaps triple, depending on your point of reference) misnomer.

  2. Solenodons don’t seem to have Zygomatic arches, but … the visible upper incisor doesn’t look big enough, or pointed in a weird enough direction, or groovy enough. So I am led to a shrewd conjecture.

  3. i was thinking shrew, but the teeth don’t have the orange tint – and the eye sockets look so tiny they must not be important – a mole perhaps? I can’t tell from the photo – is that lower incisor grooved?

  4. I have been thinking something is really fishy going on with this one. If the world keeps spinning on this axis, it oughta cause a giant headache. Hope for a speedy recovery!

  5. Those are dreadful puns, Tony Irwin.

    And maybe there is something fishy about this one, Katedmonson.

    Actual Tenrecs seem to have a raised rear margin of the skull roof (nuchal crest?), giving their skulls a profile reminiscent of pigs’. But the profile of this one is a lot closer to Tony’s P.v. Which, though (Viva la revolucion genetica in Mammalian systematics!) more closely related to Tenrecs (and, for that matter, Aardvarks) than to shrews, seem to be convergent with actual Soricids in … lacking a zygomatic arch.

  6. Thursday evening. Time to stop trying to be cryptic!
    What I think it is (and what I think Katedmonson thinks it is, and what Jane on 12 June and Tony Irwin on 13 June hinted it was), is the Giant Otter Shrew, Potamogale velour: neither a shrew nor an otter, and giant only by shrew standards, but a relative of Tenrecs and Golden Moles which has taken to an otter-like lifestyle and evolved, conversantly, an otter-like form. Picture and skull pictures available at

    The palatal view of the skull is really, really, weird! The snout is narrow, with only two front teeth: the foremost tooth in the side view Paolo posted is one of them. In a typical Carnivoran (think Cat, or genuine Otter) there would be a row of smaller incisors in the middle, between the big canines. (I assume this is an incisor. Whether the tooth following it is an incisor, a canine, or the first premolar I don’t know.). Behind this, the upper jaw flares outward, extending outward behind the last molar: it’s as if the maxillary component of the zygomatic arch was still there, but its rear bone is missing.

    It’s an obscure mammal, but one I’ve known the existence of since I was a child: it’s mentioned in one of Gerald Durrell’s books. I think I remember him saying that if you picked it up by the tip of the tail, it could climb up its own tail to bite you, but that part of the story may be my own imagination! (I read the book a half century or so ago.)

    • Hmm… It may well have soft fur, but the specific name “velour” was #%&* autocorrect’s doing. I meant “velox”. And the evolution of the otter-like shape was meant to be “convergent”, not “conversant”.

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