Thursday, 26 October 2017

Bone detectives

About a week ago I found a skull whilst I was out walking. We decided to do some investigation work today to try and find out which animal it belonged to. We started off by comparing it to the roe deer skull we'd found last year to look for similarities and differences.

Half term skull detectives
The skull is 12 cm long and much smaller than the roe deer skull. It has large, forward facing eyes, so we decided it belonged to a hunter that's active at night. It has different shaped teeth, including small incisors, large canines and big grinding molars at the back of the mouth, so we thought it must be a meat eater. We decided it has to belong to either a fox or a badger, but we weren't sure which (although either one is pretty cool!) We looked for help online and ended up on the Jake Bones website, which has a great section on the difference between the two types of skull, which you can read here.

Roe deer on the right and our mystery skull on the left
According to the website, the size of our skull is about right for a fox or badger. If it was a badger, the bottom jaw would usually still be attached and it would have a very prominent ridge of bone on the top of the skull. Ours had neither of these, so we suspected it was a fox.

We looked at the shape of the skull and it looked more like the badger pictures. Fox skulls have a dip at the start of the nose, but ours is more rounded. There are also no sutures (small lines) on the nose, which made us think it was a badger skull. Badgers are really tough, so their bones are firmly fused to make them strong.

Next we looked at the teeth, but our skull only has its very back molars. We could count the holes where the roots of the teeth would have been though and worked out our skull had 6 incisors, 2 canines and 4 back teeth each side. That would make it a badger and the two big back teeth are used to mash up worms!

We're fairly sure it's a badger skull, from the size, shape, teeth and strong bones. The only problem is that the lower jaw is detached (which it usually isn't with a badger) and the ridge of bone on the top of the skull is missing. We thought that maybe the skull is quite old and had been worn down and beaten up a bit, explaining the missing bits.

Finding a skull is always exciting, so we went back to the spot where I found it to look for more bones. No luck though as it seems you can only find them when you're not looking for them!