Last week I gave you this rugged skull, from a rugged place, to have a go at identifying:
As everyone spotted, this is a whale of some sort (what else has a skull that weird-looking?), but the question is, which species?
The location led to a few suggestions of Arctic / sub-Arctic species like Narwhal or Beluga, but they have a much flatter top section of the skull. In fact, those huge vertical lobes of the maxillae seen here is pretty unusual and quite distinctive (even if it is a ittle weathered and broken):
This reminded me of a specimen in the collections of the Dead Zoo and which I had to check, just to be sure of my identification:
As spotted immediately by Chris and not too long afterwards by Adam Yates and Wouter van Gestel, this is the skull of a Northern Bottlenose Whale Hyperoodon ampullatus (Forster, 1770).
This sub-Arctic species has a distribution across much of the North Atlantic. They tend to stick to quite deep water, which makes sense in the case of the specimen I shared from Iceland, since the Reynisfjara beach is infamously dangerous because it shelves off very steeply into very deep water, making the waves that break along the beach behave in an unusual (and frankly terrifying) way.
Occasionally this species will come into shallower waters, in one (somewhat tragic) case a female Bottlenose Whale swam up the Thames (and is now in NHM, London). Our specimen came from an animal stranded on the Irish coast and there are theories that maritime sound pollution is connected to them being driven into shallower waters.
Well done to everyone who worked out which species this skull is from – hope you’re ready for another mystery next week!