Nature Notes

Vol. XII May, 1934 No. 5

Skull Practice

cougar skull
#1 Cougar - sinks its teeth in the flesh of its prey and tears it.
beaver skull
#2 Beaver - has a well developed chisel-shaped set of incisors.
deer skull
#3 Mammals like the deer which crop and chew their food.
bear skull
#4 Bear are omniverous - they eat anything - and their skull and dental display gives evidence of this.

A group of skulls hardly make a very pleasant picture. Yet, in addition to their serving admireably as paper weights on the desks of medical men, they also tell us considerable about the feeding habits of the individual or group which they characterize.

We see in the cougar skull (#1) visible evidence of the great tearing power of this giant cat. Springing upon his prey he sinks those great teeth into its flesh and literally rips it apart but, like all cats, he does not stop to masticate his food well but bolts it - his molars are not well developed. Watch your house cat, if you have one, and see how it tears the meat you give it, crunches it hastily in its jaws a few times and gulps. In the beaver (#2) we see an admirably well developed set of incisors which are chisel shaped and which serve this animal well in his work of falling trees and gathering small branches upon which is bark, the beaver's chief food. Rodents (gnawing mammals) are characterized by well developed incisors. Herbiverous mammals like the deer (#3) which pull grasses and similar food free from wherever it is growing and then grinds this food have a characteristic skull which, like other mammals, indicates its food habits. The bear (#4) eats all kinds of food - is omniverous - and so its skull indicates a miscellaneous food habit. (C.F.B.)

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