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My kangaroo skull


This is a skull I have had for a while but I haven't got round to writing about it until now. It was a special gift from one of dad's friend's Sarah who lives in the other Perth, the one in Australia. She sent me a package of something she had found by the side of the road, and she knew it was a kangaroo but not exactly what sort. She cleaned it up herself, and sent it through the post. It only took four days to go 15,000km !

Here's the outside of the package when it arrived.

It is different from other skulls I have. It is different to deer and sheep because it has top incisors (the teeth at the front) and the bone doesn't go all the way around the eye socket. It is 15cm long, which roughly the same size as a fox skull, and a bit smaller than a roe deer. 

The dental formula for adult kangaroos is:

 I 3/1; C0/0; PM variable; M4/4

which means: three incisors on each side on the top, one incisor on each side at the bottom, no canines, variable number of premolars and four molars. My skull has all in the incisors, three more cheek teeth, and one back tooth emerging which means it is a juvenile.

In the picture above you can see the huge entrance to the root canal at the back of the jaw. If you push a wire down the left hand hole it will come out the right hole. Unlike deer, the big hole in the thick bit of the jaw has openings on the inside and the outside of the jaw.

This is a really unusual shape for a jaw.

Here are the top and bottom sets of teeth. When you put the jaws together, the bottom incisors sit inside of the curve of the lower incisors to help them strip leaves from plants.

Here is a close up of the top incisors. One of the I1's has a crack in it. There aren't any nasal turbines (the delicate bones inside the nose like rolled up paper) in this skull

These bottom teeth are a bit like daggers. You can only see 15mm of them but they are actually 5cm long. The holes you can see are the other end of the root canal.

So what is it ?

Sarah wasn't sure what kind of kangaroo this was. She said the main type of kangaroo in Perth was the Western Grey Kangaroo which was quite small. Here is a link to a picture of one of them. But my skull doesn't look as scrunched up and doesn't have as thick a zygomatic arch (from the eye to the back of the head)

She said it was more likely to be a red kangaroo and you can see a picture of that here. That seems quite like it.

There is an Eastern Grey Kangaroo, but the upper bit of the jaw looks much thicker and the zygomatic arch looks thicker too.

I couldn't find any guides to sizes (which is the main way to tell deer apart in the UK) but I think it is a red kangaroo.

Kangaroos are funny animals which look misshapen with huge back legs and tiny front legs. Here is a kangaroo at the National Museum of Scotland. I'm not sure what type it is but it was quite small.

This is a great skull to have. Thank you Sarah !

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Jack N said...

Jake,I could actually find a wallaby (animal like a small kangaroo)skull:some escaped from a zoo or something and are living in the peak district,to be precise a climbing place called the Roaches.Locals even see them in their garden if they're very lucky!This is only a half hour drive from my house.

hanawren said...

Looks like it is a Red Kangaroo too: http://www.nms.ac.uk/collections/details.php?item_id=680695&terms=kangaroo&key=description&offset=0&pos=4&tot=7

I'm glad the museum has this online collection. The new gallery is spectacular, but it doesn't really have specific info about each exhibit.

I love your blog. I emailed you ages ago about sheep horns. They cleaned up pretty well and don't smell bad so thank you for your very good advice.


Sarah said...

Great article Jake! Glad you liked the skull.

Ric Morris said...

Marsupial skulls are really amazing... I blagged a Bennett's Wallaby skull from Chester Zoo when I was 16, but it got a bit damaged when I prepared it. I've still got it but it is nowhere near as nice as yours. Sarah, could you please send me a nice red kangaroo too!!

Anonymous said...

hey jake! its me emmy. the one with the raccoon skull. its comming soon trust me :) so sorry about this huge delay

Jake said...

@Jack: That would be cool to see !
@Hannah: Glad it helped !
@Sarah: Thanks again !
@Ric: how did you blag it from the zoo ?
@Emmy: cool, no worries !

Ric said...

Hi Jake
I wrote to the Zoo explaining that I was a young skull collector and asked if they would be kind enough to send me something. I had in mind a beautifully cleaned giraffe or gorilla skull that they might have prepared for a display or for some other reason, and they didn't need anymore. (This was before CITIES legislation, and all that stuff you researched with the Golden Eagle skull.) The zoo agreed to do so if I promised to refund the postage, which was about 25p (this was a very long time ago, when you could post a letter for about 2p!) They didn't actually tell me in advance what they were going to send me until a few days later, when a parcel arrived. This turned out to be a large coffee tin wrapped in brown paper. I eagerly unwrapped and opened it..... only to find a severed wallaby head. Unfortunately rigor mortis must have set in after they removed the head and they couldn't get the head into the coffee tin because the large ears had gone stiff, so much so that the head wouldn't fit inside... so they chopped the ears off too.... Not a pretty sight AT ALL. I spent all weekend boiling it up on a camping stove outside but unfortunately I didn't simmer it, I just heated it on full power and all the flesh went rubbery and didn't fall off the bone... then I turned my back and the dogs got interested and gave the muzzle a bit of a chew... Hence the damage. Oh dear. I didn't really make the most of that marvellous opportunity, did I!

Jo said...

Hi Jake, good job mate!!! .I think you are doing an awesome job, and good luck with your book. I love fossicking for gemstones and fossils, so I can understand your interest in bones.
cheers, from Jo in Balmoral, Victoria Australia

Jake said...

Thanks !

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