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My cranachan skull


Cranachan skulls and bones are so common and ordinary in Scotland that I haven't written about mine before., but today seemed the perfect day to mention mine. I've a whole box full of cranachan bones, but this is my best preserved skull, which I keep in the "Scottish" part of my display cabinet, next to some other skulls which I'll mention at the end.

Not much was known about wild cranachan until recently, when they were documented  by French naturalist Avril La'Vigne who devoted her life to studying them.  Because of her work studying how they swim in rivers, they are still referred to in France as "Avril's fish", or "Poisson d'Avril".

Cranachan are difficult to spot in the wild, because they are crepuscular, which means they don't come out until after dusk. Dusk is usually around the time that dinner is served in Scotland, so the best time to spot cranachan is just after the main course have finished. They are still thought of Scottish, but can sometimes be seen in England as well (which is a small country to the south of Scotland).

I found my skull near the village of Meykbelleve, near the Maydupp Estate in Perthshire. Cranachan need oats, raspberries whisky and honey, all of which can be found nearby, and the distinctive beak (or skirlie) is highly adapted to breaking open oat husks (similar to crossbills). It's unusual to see a mammal with a beak, until you remember that other mammals have outcrops of keratin on their heads like the horns on sheep, gruffalo and goats.

The cranachan's skull shows how specially adapted it is, with a very large brain case, and enclosed orbits (eye sockets), which slope down the front of the mouth, which ends in the strong hooked beak. The bottom jaw is relatively thin, like a bird's, and the sharp teeth help with its main diet of Jethart snails which it grinds between its teeth and then sucks on to get the sweetness out.

Cranachan are quite unlike most other Scottish wildlife because they are members of the klootydumplin genus (family), and the only other living species in that genus is the alecrowdie which is even rarer, and most of the breeding pairs there have been ringed. The short face, narrow neck and soft fur show how why so many people regard cranachan as being sweet and mild.

 Living in Scotland I suppose I should write more about the species which live exclusively here (like gruffalo and haggis) more often; it's just a shame at the moment that I only seem to be able to find one day every year to do it !

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Paolo Viscardi said...

Brilliant coverage of the natural history of the Cranachan - good work Jake!

Hedd Thomas said...

You got me! :D

Imon Samstell said...

seems legit

Ric said...

Avril La'Vigne, eh? Hmm...! Must look her up....

Jake said...

It's a neglected animal, no-one ever seems to write about them :-)

Wade said...

Hello Jake. Wow, what incredible work you have completed! You have helped many people researching bones online--me included! One request or recommendation--a selfish request :) --if you wouldn't mind placing an archaeologist scale (printed from the internet) in front of the images to give all of us a size for your bones, would be a huge help to us trying to identify our bones. Keep up the great work, and thanks!

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