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!

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Several weeks ago, I and a group of colleagues from the University of Portsmouth (Dave Martill, Robert Loveridge and Richard Hing) set off on a trip to the Cretaceous exposures of Morocco. We were to be joined by Nizar Ibrahim from University College Dublin - our team leader - and by Samir Zouhri…
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No time at the moment to complete anything for the blog, dammit. So only time for a picture of the day. Inspired by recent comments made here about the whereabouts of the Krayt dragon skeleton from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Matt Wedel has done a great job of both identifying the skeleton,…

Looks like a solenodon but... no tail...

Is it a tenrec?

By Blue Frackle (not verified) on 17 Dec 2008 #permalink

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.

By Mike from Ottawa (not verified) on 17 Dec 2008 #permalink

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

By Ville Sinkkonen (not verified) on 17 Dec 2008 #permalink

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.

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.

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

By Stevo Darkly (not verified) on 17 Dec 2008 #permalink

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

Tenrec ecaudatus.

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

By Jo Waltham (not verified) on 17 Dec 2008 #permalink

Flightless Ropen?

By Dave Godfrey (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

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.

By David Marjanovi?, OM (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

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?

By John Scanlon FCD (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

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.

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.

By John Scanlon FCD (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

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 Bühler (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!

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.

By Mary Blanchard (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

"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!

By Brian Beatty (not verified) on 19 Dec 2008 #permalink

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.

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?

By Graham King (not verified) on 20 Dec 2008 #permalink

Probably something seasonal. Is it a reindeer?

By Trin Tragula (not verified) on 24 Dec 2008 #permalink

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

Back to sleep now.


By Noni Mausa (not verified) on 26 Dec 2008 #permalink

hedgehog :)

By wheelsmith (not verified) on 12 Jan 2009 #permalink