Saturday, December 17, 2011


The skull seems to be the most common skeletal part found decorating the Blue Jay Barrens landscape.  At least half of my bone finds are skulls.  I suppose the head yields little of interest to most predators and scavengers.  Meat laden bones from the rest of the animal are carried off and either chewed or consumed.  The tough bones of the skull are also more resistant to decomposition, so they remain recognizable for a longer period of time.  This Raccoon skull was hidden beneath the leaves before I brought it back into the light.

Dentition is important in the proper identification of the skull.  By counting the teeth, you can narrow the range of possible species.  The upper jaw tooth count in this case is 20, which is normal for several genera in this area.  It’s easy to eliminate smaller mammals like moles or shrews and you certainly wouldn’t mistake this little skull for a bear.   Those species that might have a similar size are foxes and dogs.  These are ruled out because their cranial ridges begin at the eye sockets and travel back to merge somewhere near the back part of the skull.  In Raccoons, the ridges quickly merge between the eye sockets and continue back across the top of the skull as a single ridge.

The profile also tells you this isn’t a fox or a dog.  With a little bit of imagination you can put fur, ears and nose in place and make a good guess.  It’s easier when all the teeth are in place.  I’ve had enough dogs growl at me that I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing that tooth grin.  I would point out that the snout is shorter than the normal dog, but there are so many specialized dog breeds that canine snout lengths and shapes can vary considerably.

I left the skull on top of the leaves.  It’ll be interesting to see how long it stays in place.

I have to end with the image of an alien face emerging from the toothless jaw.  It would be interesting to take a skull and see just how many faces I could find hidden there.


  1. I had the same reaction when I first saw it: it looks like it could be an alien face.

  2. Hi Lois. I'm glad there are other people who see these faces.

  3. maybe a skunk? ( skulls are so wondrous! so are repeating patterns and fractals of nature! great post! )

  4. Hi Jesse. It's a Raccoon. Skunks have only 16 teeth in the upper jaw, while Raccoons have 20 as seen here.