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Skull identification

Rabbit skullWhile digging around in the stump dirt Thursday, I uncovered some found art.  Lucy must have buried a carcass in the base of the stump because my scrabbling fingers turned up tufts of fur and leg bones...and then this perfect skull.

I found a very useful key for identifying mammal skulls and soon discovered the skull's owner.  The answer is after the second picture for those who want to guess.

Rabbit skull from below

The first distinguishing feature is the large gap between the majority of the teeth and the incisors, which determines that the animal was either a rodent or a rabbit.  If you look closely below the big incisors at the front of the jaw, you'll notice two smaller teeth tucked back into the skull.  These peg teeth are used for grabbing or cutting food and identify my skull as a rabbit.

I find skulls endlessly fascinating and once had a collection, but eventually learned that collections bog me down.  So I gave this rabbit to our winesap apple tree as a source of calcium.

Check out our homemade chicken waterers, the perfect way to get your chicks off to a healthy start.


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I believe this is a opossum skull.
Comment by D.P.N Sun Mar 7 07:32:03 2010
I missed the tooth shape, you are correct.
Comment by D.P.N. Sun Mar 7 07:33:27 2010
Oh good --- I was pretty sure. From the key, anything with a big gap between the incisors and the back teeth is a rodent or rabbit, which makes sense to me. All they need is the cutting teeth and the grinding teeth. No tearing teeth for vegetarians.
Comment by anna Sun Mar 7 08:20:38 2010
As a kid, we used to take mice and rats from household traps (and any interesting road kill!) and leave them on anthills in the bush. We'd check back on them regularly, and before too long we'd have perfectly cleaned skulls. Awesome!
Comment by Darren (Green Change) Sun Mar 7 17:36:28 2010
I did something similar once by accident. A pet goldfish died and I "buried" it under a rock which just happened to be near an ant colony. When I lifted the rock up a week or two later, all that was left was a perfect skeleton. I tried to repeat the trick but couldn't get those ants to come back. :-)
Comment by anna Sun Mar 7 19:18:45 2010
i found a partial upper jawbone from a mammal. looks like a possum however it has four molars instead of three. all the possums i've looked at had three molars before the pre-canine.help would be much appreciated,thanks
Comment by colin Tue Mar 22 19:00:09 2011
Colin --- I wish I could help, but I'm far from an expert. Did you try the link to the ID key in the post?
Comment by anna Tue Mar 22 19:20:48 2011
I believe the answer is Eastern Cottontail, maybe snowshoe hare but I high doubt it since your blog says you are in Virginia.
Comment by Skulls Wed Feb 27 03:37:14 2013