Friday mystery object #436

This week I have been in the beautiful city of Edinburgh at the conference of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) and the Natural Sciences Collections Association (NatSCA) hosted wonderfully by National Museums Scotland (NMS).

It’s been a fantastic opportunity to catch up with natural history colleagues from around the world and to learn what everyone has been busy doing over the last few years. I also got to see some fantastic specimens held by NMS and I thought I’d set one of them as this week’s mystery object:

Do you have any idea what this might be?

As ever, you can leave your thoughts in the comments box below. Have fun!

15 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #436

  1. There are color variations: is this object partly plaster?

    The hollowed-out inner faces of the dentaries make me think it is a Cetacean, and in particular an odontocete: so I’m with Wouter so far. But not confident enough to follow him to the species level.

    How big is it? Hard to judge from the picture, but it does, Wouter, look like a BIG HEAD.

  2. I can see how the lower jaws pinch together to create an elongate anterior symphysis (partly hidden behind the support pole but still visible) To my knowledge this alone pretty much indicates that Wouter is correct. Plus that tall crest projecting dorsally from the back of the skull leaves no doubt that this is the big spermoceti-bearing squid eater.

  3. The rear view is… unusual. To see if I could find an image to compare, I keyed “[common name] skull” into my search engine: didn’t find any viewed from this angle, but did notice (located at a “Things to do in Edinburgh” site) a photo of what seems to be this specimen (similar pole mount in a well with similar glass-with-metal-top fence around it), taken from a more familiar angle. Which leaves the identity pretty unmistakable.

  4. Joe Vans: my guess is that the “eyes” are the scars from whopping big tendons. Which you’d want if your head was this big!

  5. Umm… Nuchal ligaments? (I’m not clear about the distinction between ligaments and tendons: they both leave scars on the bones they attach to, don’t they?)

    • Yep, but ligaments connect bone-to-bone, tendons connect muscle to bone, so ligements can be flexible while tendons tend to be stiff. Both leave scars where they attach, so it can be harder to figure out which is which from just the bone.

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