Friday mystery object #115 answer

This was a week of firsts for Friday Mystery Object: the first time it’s not been hosted on Zygoma, and the first time answers have been submitted in verse! I’m very impressed.

On Friday I gave you this little beauty to identify:

Now, I have a confession to make: I’m a mammal person. I know a bit about birds, and very little about reptiles. But I picked this specimen because Paolo hadn’t done a reptile in a while (and I thought we’d had enough of birds lately!), and it was a nice-looking skull.

Naively, I assumed that because it was an exotic creature I wasn’t very familiar with, that meant it might be difficult for others to guess. How foolish.

henstridgesj honed in on the correct family at 9.04am on Friday,and by 1.44pm had it down to the right genus. Others soon followed suit: Namnezia had the right common name, and Dave Godfrey got it to the correct species: the South American lizard Tupinambis teguixin (or gold tegu).


Well, maybe. The taxonomy of the genus Tupinambis seems to be in a constant state of flux, and is consequently somewhat confusing. T. teguixin now refers to the Columbian gold tegu (formerly called T. nigropunctatus), but it used to refer to the Argentinian black and white tegu (now T. merianae). This taxonomic rejigging followed a re-examination of the many historic descriptions and namings of these animals by Avila-Pires in 1995¹. The skull in the Horniman’s collection is labelled as T. teguixin, but it is quite old (possibly acquired as early as the 1920s – can you remember, Paolo?), so it could potentially be the Argentinian black and white tegu, which was then called T. teguixin, rather than the gold tegu. A little more research may be needed to confirm the identification.

So I’m afraid for now the mystery remains unsolved! And on that happy note, I’ll take my leave. Thank you all for playing! Normal service will resume next week back over on Zygoma.

¹Avila-Pires, T.C.S. 1995. Lizards of Brazilian Amazon (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen, Vol. 299, No. 1, p.1-706

5 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #115 answer

  1. Cool skull !

    Sorry I didn’t do it last week. I looked at it now and worked out it was a reptile because it was a bit like my boa constrictor skull and a bit like my crocodile skull. Crocodiles have the dots above the teeth to sense things I think.

  2. Well done! It must be great having your own collection to compare things to – I’m quite jealous. I usually have to make do with Google image search. Which isn’t very helpful if you don’t know what you’re looking for!

  3. I believe this specimen came from the German natural history suppliers Schluter and Mass in the mid 1930’s, so there is a very good chance that the identification needs to be updated.

    This can be difficult when all you have is a skull, since the distinction between closely related species may be based on soft parts, postcranial elements or behaviour.

    However, there may be a collection locality which could help inform the reidentification and if not there may be information available about the area in which the collectors that supplied Schluter and Mass were active. I will check it out when I get a chance!

    Thanks for picking and researching an interesting object!

  4. Ah, thanks for that, I couldn’t remember what the label said.

    And thanks for letting me do Friday Mystery Object! It’s a pleasure and an honour, as well as a great way to learn more about species I’m not familiar with. I enjoyed doing the research. And it’s nice to be able to contribute new information on specimens in the museum’s collections sometimes, even if it does mean more work for you in re-identifying it – sorry!

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