Forest Skull Study – Test your Wildlife Wisdom

Walk the landscape long enough and your sure to come across some interesting discoveries. Some that are sure to facinate the naturalist interest within ourselves are the white washed sun bleached skulls of animals. This is like CSI – Crime Scene Investigation but for animals.. animal forensics. 

Over the years I’ve made a collection of skulls to share with students, scouts and campers as part of a hands-on Wild About Wildlife program. The purpose is to allow students to use their own wildlife wisdom and inquiry skills to match the skull to the animal owner.

In doing so, we are able to examine closely what the structures of the skull represent to the animals life history.  Discussion leads to such things as the monocular or side view vision and binocular or eyes in the front vision of skulls to discuss “eyes on the side ready to hide, eyes in the front ready to hunt” and better recognize predators and prey. We look closely at dentition or teeth of animals to see the macerating series of teeth of a herbivorous deer that helps it to grind up plant material down into the four chambered stomach, carnassial teeth in canines and recognize carnivores, the separation at the zygomatic arch in cats, the fenestrations (web like bone structure) of Lagomorphs in their rostral area and anterior to the auditory bulla, as well as the diastema (space) separating the incisors from the cheek teeth (premolars and molars) or the reddish discoloration of shrew teeth due to the iron content and how that helps prevent decay against mechanical stress and keep the teeth sharp.

Often skulls are found sun bleached and ready to use but if not the case you can prepare them yourself using a method called maceration.

 

DEFINITIONS:

Zygomatic Arch: the arch of bone that extends along the front or side of the skull beneath the eyes

Maxilla: The upper jaw bone

Sagital Crest: a bump along the jigsaw on the back of the skull

Auditory Bullae: a hollow, bony structure that encloses parts of the middle and inner ear.

Foramen Magnum: the opening in the skull through which the spinal cord passes to become the medulla oblongata (part of the brain)

Basisphenoid: A bone from early growth that merges with the bone behind the eyes.

Coronoid Process: Upper part of the back of the mandible

Articular Process: Lower part of the back of the mandible

Mandible: The lower jaw bone

Dorsal: Top View

Ventral: Bottom View

Posterior: Back View

Anterior: Front View

Lateral: Side view

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