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My hooked-nosed sea pig skull


This is a post I have been meaning to write for ages. It is about a skull I swapped with my friend Mrs Powell when we met at the Scottish Seabird Centre in October. I meant to write about it the next week, but then all sorts of things happened, and then I wrote posts about being on Autumnwatch so I haven't had chance to write about it until now.

If you were just looking at this skull you might thing it was from some kind of savage animal like a bear  or a big cat (although the teeth are wrong for those). It is about 25cm long, which makes it one of the biggest skulls I have (apart from my cow, my red deer and my fallow deer). It feels chunky, rough and solid, and a bit frightening, so it can be a big surprise that it is actually from....

a grey seal ! (The Latin name for a grey seal is Halichoerus grypus which means "hook-nosed sea pig", which is a bit weird and it is where I got the title from).

Mrs Powell found the seal body in Amble Harbour in Northumberland in April. It was a great find and great for me because I live a long way from the coast. I had seen one before in the dermestid beetle tanks when I visited CAHID:

The first thing you notice about this skull is the giant nose, which Skullsite thinks might help it to smell underwater. 

Seals can live up to 25-35 years old, but the teeth on this one seem very sharp, so I think it was an adult but not that old. There are five cheek teeth with big spaces in between them. The canines are bigger and they overlap. They are sharp because seals eat fish, (unlike the teeth of deer, cows and sheep which have to grind grass).

It has six incisors on the top jaw and four on the bottom. The four on the bottom are missing, but you can see the holes. They go in two rows of two.

There is some damage to the bone on the right orbit, but a lot of seal skulls seem to be damaged when you look at pictures on the internet. The Zygomatic arch is broken on that side too.

The top of the skull is covered in small random holes. The saggital crest is very small, but there are ridges at the back triangle of the skull. I think these are for the muscles where the head is attached to the spine, and the muscles there must be strong.

Here is another picture of those ridges from the back of the skull.

This is now one of my most favourite skulls and I really grateful to Mrs Powell (although she got some cool skulls too). After the winter I hope to go up to the beach near Dundee to look for my own seal skulls.

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Anonymous said...

wow! that is amazing

CowboyWay said...

Dear Jake,

I just found your blog and find it fascinating! I will be back as time permits to read more about your wonderfully diverse collection of skulls and bones. Your photos and descriptions are wonderful!

PS I live in the USA in south-central Kansas. We have lots of cow and horses here, but no "hook nosed sea pigs!"

Jake said...

Thanks !

Anonymous said...

hey jake! i think i have a raccoon skull u might want! :)
i dont know yet but if so. could i get a deer skull for it? i dont care if it has jaws or not cause my raccoon skull does not :( but its up to u ;)


Jake said...

Hi Emmy. Could do, let me know when you've decided !

Anonymous said...

yup! i can! :D yay! im so happy! i always wanted to do this!

Anonymous said...

can i post a pic of the skull on your facebook???
just to show you

Anonymous said...

oh and can i have a sheep skull insted? we dont have sheep where i live

Jake said...

Hi Emmy,

Email me your address to jakesbones@gmail.com and I'll send you my address and post you a roe deer skull and a sheep skull. I think I have spares of both but the sheep won't have horns.

Jake said...

PS. Course you can post on my Facebook page.

Anonymous said...

ok! thanks!

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