Archive for May, 2013

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The Royal (lion) skull

May 28, 2013

If you have even been to the Tower of London you will know that it can be an overwhelming sight.  But now imagine that, with lions!

For many years, the Royal family kept a kind of zoo – the Royal Menagerie – which held animals that had been gifted from influential friends and followers.

I have to be honest, I am personally glad that the Royal Menagerie no longer exists, because lets be honest, its no place for a lion. The sad thing is though, that because it is no longer, we can’t meet these old Barbary lions that are now extinct in the wild… not a live version anyway.

You can however, pop into the Natural History Museum in London and introduce yourself to the skull of a Royal lion.

The museum collection holds two skulls that were recovered from the grounds of the Tower of London during excavations in 1937.

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Tough day at the office Barbary lion? Cos lets be honest, who hasnt wanted to bite the face off the person next to you while at work? Pic credit – Mirror UK/Rick Findler/Barcroft

The skulls have given scientists a cool insight into the lives of the lions in the Royal menagerie, including the fact that their diet was probably inadequate – visible by malformation of the foramen magnum.

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Pic credit – Natural History Museum

The skull here, as you can see, is a veritable nerdgasm of craniophile goodness. It has a good set of (super sharp) canine teeth, some visible nasal concha, a massive infraorbital foramen below his eyes and two neat mental foramen on the lower jaw.

So if you are heading to the Natural History Museum, or anywhere close, head in and meet the lion!  Say hi for us, Barbary Lion and I go way back (I’m an ex-queen you see).

As a side note, does anyone else love the word menagerie?

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Another whale of a time with skull hide and seek

May 16, 2013

You may remember my previous post about Ned Kelly as the skull hide and seek champion… but now, I think he has some heavy duty competition for the title.

The skull of a Bryde’s whale – property of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery – has gone AWOL from a beach on the South end of the Great Southern Land (Australia for any non-Icehouse fans out there… not that that is possible).

At 2m long, approximately 100kg and 100% stinky, you would imagine that the skull would have been to difficult to take from the beach, but that didnt stop some exuberant skull collector! Or maybe the Bryde’s skull thought it would take the opportunity to see some of the sights in Tasmania – a state renowned for its natural beauty (and some awesome breweries and a chocolate factory!). Particularly since it is not the natural territory for the 10m long whale.

brydes skull

Pic credit – ABC News

Now I can’t profess to know much (or anything!) about the anatomy of whale skulls, so if any one out there reading is a whale skull specialist, get in touch and tell us what makes them tick. We do know that this guy (or girl?) was a type of baleen whale, meaning there are no teeth in that mouth, but rather it would have fed by filtering water through a set of plates, trapping things that are small and delicious.

The baleen is actually made of keratin (like fingernails and hair) and not bone – and as to whether the Tasmanian scientists managed to recover the baleen from this guys skull, I have no idea!  You will have to visit the museum to see!

Thankfully the skull has now been recovered, but we definitely think this warrants a nomination in the skull hide and seek champs for 2013!