As of February 2016, after 416 posts, and over six and a half years of blogging, I'm taking a break.
I've explained why here. There's plenty of past posts to read, though - hope you enjoy them !
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The monkfish skull and my new fish skull


This is a skull that I was given almost two years ago by Michael Fox (the one that wrote this book). We  had swapped some other skulls then he sent me this one without telling me what it was. I guessed it was some kind of fish or shark when I first saw it, and then he told me it was a monkfish !

Although I haven't written about it for ages, I thought of it this week because I have been finishing off rotting down the fish I found on this walk in January.

The first thing you notice about this skull are the teeth. They are all like thin spikes. I counted 97 ! On the bottom jaw there are two rows of teeth on the same jaw. There are small spikes which go up in front, then bigger spikes which curve back into the mouth. The only other skull I have with teeth like this is my boa skull.

The skull is very delicate and thin and feels easy to break. It doesn't feel like the bone you get in mammals like deer. The braincase is absolutely tiny so it must have had a very small brain. You can it at the centre at the top where the spine would go into the skull.

It seems to have enormous eye sockets, although the eyes wouldn't have been that big. There is nothing like areas for the nose or ears like you would get on a mammal, and there are no areas which are completely enclosed by bone except the small braincase. It looks like the top jaws move but the bottom jaws don't. which is the opposite way round to mammals. There are two separate rows of teeth at the top.

The hardest part is the forehead which protects the braincase but even so it feels like you could put your finger through it. There are ridges and spikes on it.

This is the mystery fish I found in January. It was beside a small river. I don't know hot it got there but it might have been caught by a dog, a grey heron or an otter. It was quite close to where I found the dead otter I wrote about last week. I'm still not exactly sure what it was, but I think it might be a salmon, a pike or a rainbow trout.

I took it home and put it in a bucket with some water and biological washing powder and warm water, then left it for almost two months. This is called macerating, which is rotting down in water. However, fish seem to quite waterproof and don't rot down like other animals. This is it this week.

It stunk ! It is one of the grossest things that I have ever smelt. The skin was almost intact but the flesh was starting to fall apart. Dad took the head off and threw away the rest, then pulled the head apart. The skull wasn't one bone but lots of different ones. Inside the head was flesh like this.

That reminded me of the whale at the museum in Paris which had bits of skin to filter in water between its jaws.

This is part of the skull and was mostly the jaws. There were lots of them ! These are in peroxide at the moment.

The jaws reminded me a lot of another fish skull I saw at the Paris museum which was labelled "truite à bécard" which translates as "jumping trout" which I think means salmon because of the way they jump up waterfalls. One of the rivers in my village has salmon which swim up in late summer. If a salmon took a wrong turn it could end up where we found it.

Whatever it is the skull is still pretty gross and I might not ever be able to put it together.

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michael fox said...

Hi Jake, Glad you liked the monkfish, the bottom jaws do move from the pivot at the back, you can make it out in your 4th picture at the bottom left of the eye socket, it doesnt move as this is how i set it. the upper jaws also move as they would be in the lips of the fish and pull down as it opens its mouth, the skull is not entire so you dont have the boney plate that was in the tongue which also had teeth on it. They are fantastic killing machines.It also seems i sent you one without its "fishing rods" which are really clever lures for its prey.

jordan said...

Hi jake I can't keep up with your blog but yoour putting stuff where its not supposed to be and i am getting mixed up. Do you think your present is simalar to the pike you found.

your friend

Anonymous said...

hey jake its emmy!!! i was wondering if you still wanted the raccoon skull? cause i dont have emails from you

Jake said...

Hi Mr Fox ! Thanks for the info !
Hi Jordan ! Not sure what you mean about putting stuff in the wrong places. The monkfish isn't really like a pike. They have different shaped heads and bodies.

Jake said...

Hi Emmy ! I haven't posted your sheep skull and deer skull yet but I will soon. I found an even better sheep skull for you.

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