Last week I gave you this unidentified skull from Dublin’s Dead Zoo to have a go at identifying:
It didn’t prove too difficult to narrow it down, with everyone recognising it as a mustelid and Rémi immediately recognising it as being one of the Martens. But salliereynolds and Chris managed to get it down to the species, which is a bit of work.
There are around seven living species in the Genus Martes, although the total number varies depending on the sources you read. They have very similar skull shapes, the same dental formula and very similar tooth shape. In my experience the main feature to differentiate them lies in the auditory bullae.
There are some decent online resources with images of Marten skulls, so it is possible to get a handle on some options. Each bulla is a 3 dimensional structure that is inflated in subtly different ways that are really hard to describe.
In a previous post I had a similar specimen (the same species as it happens) as a mystery object and I compared some bullae, but alas the image I referred to has since been removed. However, the important point is that there’s only one of the Martens that seems to have an outermost lobe that has a well-defined anterior sulcus (a fissure towards the front edge). This feature makes me think that this is a European Pine Marten Martes martes Linnaeus, 1758.
Last week I gave you this mystery mandible from a cabinet in my office, that I discovered while clearing things out:
I was a hotly debated mystery, with some very interesting discussions in the comments between salliereynolds, Allen Hazen and palfreyman1414. This narrowed the identification down from carnivore, to mustelid, to otter, to a final suggestion of European Otter Lutra lutra (Linnaeus, 1758) by Allen Hazen.
European Otter by Bernard Landgraf
This was the same conclusion that I’d reached and it’s always nice to get a second independent opinion that agrees. I’ve seen quite a few otter jaws (in fact I’ve had two otter mandibles as previous mystery object – one was from an Asian Short-clawed Otter and the other from the same species as this one).
This now gives me what I need to go looking to see if there’s a European Otter cranium that’s missing a mandible, so I can see if this one fits. That still might be a bit of glass-slipper type situation, as we have quite a few European Otters in the collection. Ireland is a bit of an otter stronghold and I’ve even found one dead in the road right in Dublin, near one of the canals and less than a mile from the Museum.
Sadly I’ve not yet seen a live one in the wild, and even when they are around they tend to keep a low profile and are normally only known because of their distinctively fishy spraints left in visible locations.
On that slightly fishy note I will leave you until next week!
I chose this object because it gave me a chance to take a photo using my new phone camera and a hand lens (inspired by an article by Nigel Larkin in the latest NatSCA News). I thought it might be a bit of a challenge, but I was proven wrong once again, as Jake tentatively identified the part of the skeleton this bone is from straight away – it is indeed a baculum or os penis (that’s the Latin for penis bone).
The species was a bit more difficult, but Barbara Powell was quick to identify that it came from a Mustelid and then there was a bit of disagreement between Barbara, Ric Morris and Dawn about whether it was from a Continue reading →
Apologies for the lack of response to questions last Friday, I was travelling and had limited access to the internet.
Excuses aside, I was impressed by the overall accuracy of the answers received about what this skull belonged to:
Everyone spotted that it was a carnivore and most of you identified this as being the skull of a mustelid, but no-one seems to have got this identification spot-on (perhaps my stinking clue was a bit too vague). Suggestions ranged a fair bit and uncertainty was rife, as shown in this word cloud of the comments:
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the clue, Skunks were suggested quite a lot as were Civets and Polecats/Ferrets (which are indistinguishable from each other on the basis of the skull, since Ferrets are just domesticated Polecats).
This suggestion of Polecat is pretty much there, although the specimen is not the standard European Polecat Mustela putorius rather it is an African mustelid known as the Continue reading →