Truth lies beneath the skin

Berkeley, California

[Alan's backyard, site of frequent sightings of fast-moving critters]

I wrapped up my studies in Berkeley on Thursday night, by which time Alan and I have dissected three North American otter skulls, a gray fox skull, a red fox skull, two spotted hyena skulls, and an entire racoon.

[temporary hyena lab set up in Alan's garage]

The jaw muscles were of particular interest to me. A general rule in mammals is that carnivores have large temporalis muscles, and herbivores have large masseter muscles. The relative sizes of the jaw muscles relate to how food is processed in the mouth.

[in combination with anatomy, the marks on teeth of function from food scratches reveal the broad dietary preferences of living and extinct animals]

A solid comparative anatomical foundation is necessary to make educated guesses on the dietary habits of fossil mammal species. I took on the train ride back to Los Angeles with me the newly gained knowledge from the week's dissections, a boost to learn more about fossil hyenas!

[Emeryville, California]


1 comment:

Spencer said...

Hey Jack!

This is Spencer from the Page, and this is my first comment. I've been meaning to read this blog for a while now; I lost the link and finally got around to going back to your email to look it up again.

So, what I'm curious is about, are the sea otters. Temporalis, or masseter?

Expect me to be around here a lot!