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Koala (skull)

Phascolarctos cinereus

Description:

I found what is most certainly the skull of a koala. It is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia, and is the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae. The closest living relative is the wombat. I've done dozens of image searches of native animal skulls, but they keep pointing me back to the koala - this is clearly not the skull of an introduced species, nor a carnivore. Large eye and nasal cavities, large incisors, five molars each side, and the size is just about right. I was unable to locate the mandible. Needless to say, I hadn't a clue what I had found at the time. My initial thought was it belonged to a brushtail possum, but that wasn't to be the case. I can also see the family resemblance to the wombat, having now done comparisons. The wombat skull is quite similar in shape and size, although much heavier in appearance, and with larger, broader incisors. However, it was the smallest teeth that helped me ID this spotting, shown clearly in photos 4 and 5 - the canines, nestled between the incisors and premolars. The distance between the incisors, canines and molars, called the 'diastema' (plural diastemata), also became obvious as it's usually quite large in herbivores. Finally, note the 'three' pairs of incisors lined up in a row (of which three individual teeth are actually missing in this spotting), again shown clearly in photos 4 and 5, and also illustrated in the following link - https://www.savethekoala.com/sites/savet...

Habitat:

Spotted along the Gold Creek walking trail at Gold Creek Reservoir, which lies just to the west of Brisbane. Freshwater lake, and dense native bushland vegetation of dry eucalypt forests and subtropical rainforests.

Notes:

I'm constantly looking for koalas when I'm out hiking. It's hard enough finding a living one, so what are the odds of finding a koala skull? It was just lying a short distance from the track in the undergrowth. I don't even know what made me look, but I'm so glad I did. I left the skull behind on the trail as it is illegal to remove any item from a national park, state forest or nature reserve in Australia. However, once I had a clearer idea of what I had found, I returned to the area two weeks later to locate it once again, but to no avail. I rested it on a tree stump so other hikers could also see it, but I think it may have been taken. I just wanted some clearer photos. Never mind. PS: If you click on the reference link, it displays a photo of a koala skull. Just beneath the photo there is a tab which says "view/download original image." Click on that, and it brings up a full-size image with amazing detail. PPS: A great koala link: Australian Koala Foundation - https://www.savethekoala.com/ Everything you could ever want to know. It even shows a skull.

No species ID suggestions

30 Comments (1–25)

Neil Ross
Neil Ross a week ago

Thanks, Leuba, Felix, and everyone. Greatly appreciated.

Leuba Ridgway
Leuba Ridgway a week ago

Congratulations again !

Felix Fleck
Felix Fleck a week ago

Nice one, Neil! Congrats.

Neil Ross
Neil Ross a week ago

Cheers, Daniele and Mark. I thought I must have had misidentified this spotting. Thylarctos plummetus, indeed ;) It was an April Fool's joke initially, but being classic Australian humour, the museum kept the page, and that map is a classic. All that aside, thanks to everyone for your congrats, and thanks for this SOTW. Much appreciated.

Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway a week ago

:-D

DanielePralong
DanielePralong a week ago

Goodness.... thanks Mark. Neil, please kindly change the scientific name to Thylarctos plummetus. I'll now have to change all social media announcements ;-)
(you've got to love the distribution map on the Australian Museum reference ;-) )

triggsturner
triggsturner a week ago

Good one, congratulations Neil.

SukanyaDatta
SukanyaDatta a week ago

Congratulations, Neil.

Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway a week ago

Congrats Neil.
Look at those incisors - definitely dropbear.

Christine Y.
Christine Y. a week ago

Congratulations Neil!

Super spotting Neal,great detail photos,like a report :-) super interesting notes,very educativ spotting,so congrats on the well deserved SOTD and thanks for your enthusiasm and for you great work in Project Noah

DanielePralong
DanielePralong a week ago

It's been another tight round of voting this week, and as you've noticed Neil we've nominated a pretty varied selection of spottings. Your enthusiastic and and rigorous koala skull investigation won the vote! Congratulations, as you continue to bring the best out of Project Noah :-)

"Follow our member Neil Ross in a thrilling investigation with our Spotting of the Week, and learn all about the dentition of koalas!""

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/projectnoah/pho...

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/projectnoah

Neil Ross
Neil Ross a week ago

Thanks, drstephen. And to you as well for your Hoopoe spotting. That's pretty awesome. Leuba Ridgway's Red Seaweed spotting has been nominated too. You'd be hard-pressed to find three more different spottings. Fingers crossed to everyone nominated.

Dr_Stephen
Dr_Stephen a week ago

Congratulations on your nomination for SOTW.

Neil Ross
Neil Ross a week ago

Thanks, Rob. They are very interesting. "Use it or lose it" springs to mind. Wombats have completely lost their canines, so why haven't koalas? Perhaps they still serve some purpose, or given time, they completely disappear? A mystery that just needs time.

triggsturner
triggsturner a week ago

Fascinating spotting Neil. I have seen plenty of possum skulls but this is obviously different. Vestigel canines are interesting.

Neil Ross
Neil Ross a week ago

Those large incisors surprised me too. The wombats are similar, just much broader. It was the incisors that made me think at first I had found a possum skull. However, those tiny canine teeth you can see in the fourth photo changed my mind completely. It was then that I realised I was dealing with something totally different. Pity I couldn't locate the mandible.

Maria dB
Maria dB a week ago

I was surprised at the incisors, too - reminded me of an American beaver!

Leuba Ridgway
Leuba Ridgway a week ago

I am amazed at the size of the incisors. Good spotting Neil. Pity you didn't get to see it again.

Neil Ross
Neil Ross a week ago

Cheers, Mark. https://australianmuseum.net.au/drop-bea... Let's not frighten the gentle folk.

Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway a week ago

Dropbear skull.

Neil Ross
Neil Ross a week ago

Oh wow. Thanks, Ashley. I appreciate the nomination.

AshleyT
AshleyT a week ago

Your spotting has been nominated for the Spotting of the Week. The winner will be chosen by the Project Noah Rangers based on a combination of factors including: uniqueness of the shot, status of the organism (for example, rare or endangered), quality of the information provided in the habitat and description sections. There is a subjective element, of course; the spotting with the highest number of Ranger votes is chosen. Congratulations on being nominated!

Neil Ross
Neil Ross a week ago

Thanks, Leanne. I've been in several koala zones these past few weeks, and have been scanning the trees above as much as the track ahead! They're playing hard-to-get, but I am persistent. I'll make do with the skull cos that's pretty unique, but they'll slip up, and I'll be there.

LeanneGardner
LeanneGardner a week ago

Great find Neil. Really interesting. I hope you find that living one, but I really love what you find in the mean time.

City of Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Lat: -27.46, Long: 152.88

Spotted on May 6, 2018
Submitted on Jun 8, 2018

Reference

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