Wednesday, 22 May 2013

We still haven't found out what animal the skeleton belongs to. The body could be from any small four-legged mammal; the skull is the interesting thing.

The skull is attached to the body by the spinal cord, so it's not from a different animal. A skull that looks similar - roughly spherical with three large holes - was found by an Edwardian scientist called Howard Phillips in 1906. When I saw the picture Val found, I thought we had our answer: the similarity was striking. But there are some confounding factors.

The skull Phillips found in 1906 was tiny, no more than half an inch across, much smaller than the skull we found. Also, it was attached to a skeleton that was clearly that of a small snake, not a mammal. The oddest thing about the 1906 skull was where it was found: inside the skeleton of a fossilised whale. Phillips and his team were working on the whale skeleton after it had been uncovered by an earthquake. The scientific consensus was that the snake with the unusual skull was something the whale had eaten.

I don't know how to reconcile the differences between our finding and Phillips's. The skulls, though, size aside, are identical.

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