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Skunk skulls measure 51 to 62 millimeters on average and have a flat cranium and a hollow snout. They have a large crest on the top of their skull. Their omnivorous teeth arrangement include canine teeth, molars and premolars.
Skunks are genetically close to the Mustelidae family, which includes weasels, minks, and otters. Skunks further distinguish themselves with their rectangular-shaped upper molar and flat and unelongated middle ear bone—also known as the auditory bulla.
The anatomy of skulls can be a vital indicator in animal classification, and the skunk skull is no exception. In addition to providing clues about an animal’s diet and behavior, skull anatomy can help experts identify the species’ age, health, and size.
Whether you want to identify the skull of a varmint or are looking to clear your taxidermy animal replica wish list, there are many reasons why learning about a skunk skeleton is fascinating. Let’s dive into the zoology and biology of a skunk skull so you can get to know these smelly creatures a little better!
What Does the Skull of a Skunk Look Like?
Skunks have a prominent sagittal crest running down the top of their skull. This is a thin, bony ridge above their braincase, which is common among carnivores and meat-eaters.
While all skunks have this sagittal crest, the shape and size of the skull can vary depending on the species. Besides that, a skunk’s skull’s dental features can also give away its identity.
The dental formula of a skunk’s upper jaw is 3, 1, 3, 1. This translates to them having three incisors, one canine tooth, three premolars, and one big upper molar on the top row.
The upper molar is rectangular in shape, which is a primary indicator of a skunk skull. The bottom jaw’s dental formula is 3, 1, 3, 2: three incisors, one canine tooth, three premolars, and two molars.
On the other hand, a skunk’s middle ear bone—known as an auditory bulla—is flat and unelongated, differentiating it from members of the weasel family. The auditory bulla helps protect the inner ear structures and amplify sound waves, which is why a skunk’s sense of hearing is excellent.
How Big Is a Skunk Skull?
Skunks possess small mammal skulls, with most skunk species’ skulls falling between 51 to 62 millimeters. However, some skunk species, such as the striped skunk, have a larger skull size.
The average skull size of a striped skunk is about 8.2cm (3.2 inches). That said, depending on their age and gender, the size of a skunk skull can vary. For reference, a male human skull from human skeletons is about 145 mm.
How Do You Identify a Skunk Skull?
Whether you’ve spotted a spotted skunk skull or a raccoon skull, identification requires classifying areas of a skull into different regions. These are the rostrum, zygomatic arches, braincase, and mandibles.
Skunks and members of the family Mephitids have a relatively long rostrum—although the spotted skunks have an even longer rostrum. The zygomatic arches are where the skunk’s cheekbones are located. These bones look like an upwardly-curved flap that separates the eye socket and the mouth.
The braincase of a skunk is where the animal’s brain is protected. It has a minimal downward arch that runs to the snout. It also has a sagittal crest running alongside it.
Finally, the mandibles are the bones that make up the skunk’s lower jaw, containing the incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. The teeth are fairly varied, with the two incisors being the longest.
How Do You Clean a Skunk Skull?
If you’ve found a striped skunk skull or a Mephitis mephitis skull and want to clean it for study or display, follow these tips to ensure that you do it safely and effectively.
- First, remove any meat, brain matter, and gristle from the skull using a stick or a pair of tweezers.
- You can cut the bony nose structure to reach inside and remove flesh and brain matter.
- If you do want to keep the skull intact, rinse the skull through the spinal opening to remove any debris.
- Let the skull soak in water for 2 days.
- Boil the skull in hot water for 1 to 2 hours.
- This will kill any bacteria and help to loosen any remaining tissue.
- Be careful not to overboil the skull, as this can make the bone brittle.
- Once you’re done boiling, leave it at room temperature for an hour.
- Fill a bowl with 5–10% hydrogen peroxide and gently place the dry skunk skull inside it.
- Place it inside for about a day until the skull becomes white.
- Finally, rinse the skull thoroughly with water to remove any hydrogen peroxide from the surface.
- You can now let it air dry or display it as is.
- For any bones that have come off, you can use wood glow to stick them back into place.
How Many Teeth Do Skunk Skulls Have?
A complete set of skunk teeth includes 34 teeth, 16 at the upper jaw and 18 at the lower jaw. This consists of the incisors, canines, premolars, and molars on both the top and bottom rows.
In total, the skunk’s upper jaw has six incisors, two canines, six premolars, and two molars. The lower jaw has six incisors, two canines, six premolars, and four molars.
The front incisors are sharp and curved like a canine. These are used for biting and cutting food. The canines are for tearing and puncturing.
Premolars, however, are for shredding food matter. Finally, the flattened molars are used for crushing and grinding the skunk’s varied meals.