Friday mystery object #436 answer

Last week I was in the lovely city of Edinburgh, catching up with many of my wonderful natural history colleagues from around the world at the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) conference. While I was there, I spotted this object and thought it might pose an interesting mystery object:

Interesting perhaps, but clearly not very challenging, since I think everyone managed to figure out what it is, despite the unusual viewing angle. Well done to Wouter van Gestel for being the first to comment.

Here’s an image of the same object from a couple of different (and somewhat more common) angles:

The large size and that very distinctive lower jaw, where the two halves of the mandible meet and run parallel for over half the length of the jaw, are unmistakeable (as noticed by Adam Yates). This is the skull of a Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus Linnaeus, 1758.

Nearby, I noticed a much smaller version of this specimen, housed in a much smaller version of the National Museums Scotland, which definitely deserves a mention:

The teeth of a Lego whale are probably not as efficient at keeping hold of a squid as the robust curved teeth of the real animal, and the skull is a bit less impressively huge, but it certainly has charm.

If you get a chance to visit Edinburgh I definitely recommend a trip to National Museums Scotland – not just for the Sperm Whale and the Lego, but also for one of the most impressive taxidermy dioramas I’ve ever seen. Here’s a small section to give you an idea: