Dead mammal quiz answer (sort of)

30 11 2009

Was our mangled mystery mammal a raccoon?

We got more responses on this dead mammal quiz than on the last two dead bird quizzes combined! What’s going on Seanetters? Suffering from seabird burnout? In a participatory mood after the Thanksgiving holiday? Whatever the reason, thanks for offering your guesses. And SEANET’s answer is… perhaps. Alas, SEANET lacks dead mammal expertise and cannot say for sure. The carcass is quite bedraggled, but here are some clear characteristics: grayish fur, relatively long tail, hand-like paws and carnivorous type teeth. So we can rule out the rodent family (which have those big front teeth for gnawing and then a bunch of grinding molars.) Our mystery mammal definitely had canine teeth at one point. So we can rule out squirrels and muskrats and their ilk. With hand-like paws and grayish fur, the most likely candidates are raccoon and opossum.

or an opossum?

The skull is often the most helpful element in a carcass of this condition. Hugh Sokolski did a nice job documenting the teeth in this animal, showing the true Seanetter’s lack of hesitation in handling dead animals. It’s a little tough to see the animal’s profile, so SEANET is wussing out of a firm identification. But based on the position of the infraorbital foramen (the divot below and forward of the eye socket) in the two candidate skulls, our carcass seems most like the raccoon. But SEANET is self-effacing and humble above all else, and will happily entertain arguments in favor of the opossum or other heretofore unconsidered mammal.

Virginia Opossum skull

In any case, this carcass is evidence of mammalian scavengers on Hugh’s beach. You may come across a similar find on your beach, so SEANET argues that some non-avian carcass i.d. skills are beneficial to us all in our quests toward greater understanding of our coastal environments.

Keep the pictures coming Seanetters; we’re interested in all the weird/cool stuff you see out there!

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