Osteomancy I – Pop goes the Weasel

Yesterday I found a skull labelled ‘weasel’ it didn’t look like the other weasel skulls; the cranium was the wrong shape, and the cranial sutures were visible, which is only the case for very young mustelids.
I first looked for any other data on the label, so I could narrow down my options. But no data! ( you will see this is a recurring problem)

twirly string!

mystery skull on the left, Mustela nivalis on the right.

The sharp teeth are suggestive of a carnivore or an insectivore. Instead of canines forming fangs the incisors perform this function. I also noticed the lack of auditory bullae, which have either fallen off at some point, or were never there.

hey look, an accession number -->

mystery skull on the left, Mustela nivalis on the right

My first thought was perhaps a fruit bat, but checking my Handbook of Living Mammals [Timothy E Lawlor, 1979] fruit bats may have large canines but their cheek teeth are simple compared to the dental set in the cranium I am investigating.

this book is great

Figure 35. Skull of a pteropodid (Epomophorus, x 1 1/2)

My second stop in the book was the insectivore section, where I found that the canine-like incisors, lack of auditory bullae and quadritubercular teeth are all diagnostic of the Erinaceidae family ie hedgehogs and gymnures. Checking against the diagram in the book the skull looked very much like the typical Erinaceidae skull figured.

a mystery no more

mystery skull resting on Figure 24. Skull of a[sic] erinaceid (Erinaceus, x 1)

Comparing the skull to other species of hedgehog using Animal Diversity Web it is possible it is a desert hedgehog or a four toed hedgehog, but it is mostly likely a European Hedgehog Erinaceus europeaus local animals are slightly more likely to turn up in the collection and we do have 12 stuffed hedgehogs.

Der Igel, l'Hérrison

A live European Hedgehog, © Michael Gäbler / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

If you are interested in seeing larger versions of the photographs, leave me a message in the comments.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s