Last week I gave you a challenge to get your teeth into:
As I suspected, everyone managed to figure out what type of animal this is, since these teeth are quite distinctive (as mammal teeth often are).
To start with, there are canines and incisors in the premaxilla (the top jaw). These are missing from things like cows, sheep and deer. So it’s not one of them. The premolars are adapted to grinding rather than cutting, so it’s not some kind of pig or carnivore.
The molar teeth are low-crowned, unlike the teeth of grazers like horses which are high crowned, to cope with the wear and tear of silica-toughened grasses. This suggests an animal that browses on softer vegetation. Also, the lophs (those ridges of enamel that join the tooth cusps) are well defined and quite distinctive in their shape. That rules out most other herbivores, including the camels and their relatives.
It turns out that this is a species that I’ve featured on the blog before (although it was almost 11 years ago!) Not a Baird’s Tapir as most people thought, but a Malayan Tapir Tapirus indicus Desmarest, 1819.
I think it’s understandable that nobody got the correct species, since the specimen is a subadult (check out the molar in the jaw that’s still developing) which will somewhat alter the proportions compared to an an adult – especially considering the photos I gave you were restricted to the teeth and missed all the useful features of the rest of the skull.
So well done to everyone who worked out that the teeth belonged to a tapir!
So were there any species specific characters in the phots you provided?