Tetrapod Zoology

Yours, in desperation

Since getting back from Morocco I’ve had no time to do anything for the blog, dammit. Too much to catch up on. But stuff is coming. Meanwhile, here are some interesting pictures. They depict the same sort of creature, but what is it?


I know, I know: easy.


Next: to the Sahara and back! Camels, sauropods, larks, owls! Azure-winged magpies! Exclamation marks!


  1. #1 Blue Frackle
    December 17, 2008

    Looks like a solenodon but… no tail…

    Is it a tenrec?

  2. #2 Mike from Ottawa
    December 17, 2008

    Not apropos this post (WTF is that thing?), but your North African expedition made ‘Daily Planet’, Canada’s Discovery Channel’s newsmagazine show. Not much detail, but a couple of photos and the illustration of the sauropod and theropods that was in the NatGeo article.

  3. #3 Ville Sinkkonen
    December 17, 2008

    Looks like Tenrec of somekind.
    Tailless Tenrec (Tenrec ecaudatus)?

  4. #4 Jorge Velez-Juarbe
    December 17, 2008

    Humm… at first I also thought of Solenodon but then I noticed the distema, the larger saggital crest, and the teeth are different. The dentition does looks like the afrotherian Tenrec ecaudatus.

  5. #5 Rajita
    December 17, 2008

    The incomplete zygomatic arch again supports a tenrec. Tailless tenrec.
    Congrats on your successful Morocco field trip — going by the news article you seem have found some interesting stuff.

  6. #6 Stevo Darkly
    December 17, 2008

    Actually, I think it’s at least an elevenrec. Maybe even a twelverec.

  7. #7 Zach Miller
    December 18, 2008

    Where…where do the eyes go on the skull?!

  8. #8 Alison
    December 18, 2008

    That’s a pretty cool critter. Reminds me of modern rodents.

  9. #9 Alan Kellogg
    December 18, 2008

    Nah, it’s only a ninerec, and on the cusp with an eightrec.

  10. #10 Dr Vector
    December 18, 2008

    That, sir, is a Rodent of Unusual Size. Native to the fire swamp, I believe.

  11. #11 Dartian
    December 18, 2008

    Tenrec ecaudatus.

  12. #12 Jo Waltham
    December 18, 2008

    The stuffed animal is the dwarf, extant gorgonopsian Pseudomegabrat hyponip, recently described from Belgium.

  13. #13 Dave Godfrey
    December 18, 2008

    Flightless Ropen?

  14. #14 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 18, 2008

    Where…where do the eyes go on the skull?!

    This here is a normal mammalimorph, not a euprimate. That means that there is no postorbital bar: orbit and temporal fenestra are confluent. (Plus, as a specialty of tenrecs or afrosoricidans or something, the temporal bar = zygomatic arch is gone, too.) So, the eye goes above the second-to-last lower molar.

  15. #15 John Scanlon FCD
    December 18, 2008

    What you have there is the Placental Bandicoot (or Madagascan Bandicoot), a.k.a. common or tailless Tenrec (T. ecaudatus as mentioned above). ‘S only fair, if we Down Under have to put up with marsupial lions, tigers, cats and mice.
    So, get any snakes in the Kem Kem?

  16. #16 Christopher Taylor
    December 18, 2008

    Sorry, John, but the placental bandicoot is a species of rat found in India. In fact, the Indian bandicoot has first dibs on the name – the Australian mammals were so called because they looked like bandicoots elsewhere.

  17. #17 John Scanlon FCD
    December 18, 2008

    Yeah Chris, I knew that too. But the tenrec is much more perameloidish (especially the skull) than any rodent, a case of convergence that should be cited in textbooks along with thylacine/wolf, penguin/auk, dolphin/ichthyosaur etc.

  18. #18 Darren Naish
    December 19, 2008

    Sorry John – no snake material at all, not even one palaeophid vertebra (and we did discuss the possibility of finding snakes all the time). We also had no luck in seeing live snakes dammit. The only fossil (possible) squamate bits we found were fragments of maxilla, but I didn’t examine these closely (Nizar found them) and they could well be something else.

    Congrats to all on identifying tenrecs correctly. I included the picture of the stuffed specimen – provided by Markus Bhler (thanks Markus) – because it looks so un-charismatic (I have lots of other photos of dead tenrecs: Mary Blanchard photographed people eating them in Madagascar). As for the skeleton (photographed at the University of Glasgow, Scotland), check out the size of that sagittal crest!

  19. #19 Mary Blanchard
    December 19, 2008

    I not only have photographs of dead (and rather cute living) tenrecs, I did in fact try one. The tenrec was killed by a dog right next to camp and the guides cooked it – it is considered a tasty dish in Madagascar… I can only describe it as the most disgusting, vile, horrendous meat I have ever tasted.

  20. #20 Brian Beatty
    December 19, 2008

    “This here is a normal mammalimorph, not a euprimate. That means that there is no postorbital bar: orbit and temporal fenestra are confluent.”

    Loads of animals outside of euprimates have postorbital bars, including numerous perissodactyls and ruminants. Even some members of the Desmostylia have a significant postorbital process. Chris Heesy, among others, have suggested there is a functional aspect to this that relates to stresses in the skull during mastication, which would explain why this little Tenrec has no need for one.

    Thanks for a fun, stimulating post, Darren!

  21. #21 Angela
    December 19, 2008

    Mary, you had it with white wine, didn’t you? Many people make the same mistake, but connoisseurs know that tailless tenrec is best served with a big hearty red.

  22. #22 Graham King
    December 20, 2008

    neat – and weird. Any idea why such a huge sagittal crest? What does it eat and does it need heavy duty jaw muscles, or is the crest there for some other reason?

  23. #23 Trin Tragula
    December 24, 2008

    Probably something seasonal. Is it a reindeer?

  24. #24 Noni Mausa
    December 26, 2008

    At first blurry-eyed glance, I thought javelina. Then tenrec. Half points.

    Back to sleep now.


  25. #25 Noni Mausa
    December 26, 2008
  26. #26 wheelsmith
    January 13, 2009

    hedgehog 🙂

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