The mystery skull

I saw an exhibit of Irving Penn’s photos covering several subjects with one part featuring pictures of animal skulls.

For most of skulls, I could ¬†match the animal it belonged to. But the coolest looking skull stumped me. It’s here on the right.

I thought maybe it was from an extinct cave bear. It wasn’t. It was the skull of a spotted hyena.

Even knowing they have an incredibly powerful bite and they’re good scavengers and hunters, how could such a gnarly looking skull be inside of a spotted hyena’s head?

The skull was sleek and compact compared to the other skulls Penn photographed. The teeth fit so neatly together, even the really broad one the side.

Looking at those teeth it’s hard to image surviving a bite from them. I doubt any live animal survives if a hyena gets a good bite in place. And as a scavenger, a hyena can probably make off quickly with a nice meal.

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. There’s an elegant looking skull inside an animal that looks a bit awkward on the outside.