Sheep Skull

The museum houses a variety of different mammalian skulls which are great teaching aids for topics such as eco-morphology, by comparing the different shapes and sizes of homologous structures between species of differing ecology.

Below is the skull of a sheep (Ovis aries), a herbivorous animal that selectively feeds on the tender, new growth of grasses and herbaceous plants. This discerning feeding behaviour is paralleled by the morphology of the teeth in that incisors are only present on the lower jaw where they are opposed, on the upper jaw, by a hard palate. Together these two surfaces act as knives on a chopping board to cut through fine foliage. The sheep’s molars are ridged to increase the efficacy of the grinding motion which is brought about by the lateral movements of the jaw. Being herbivorous means being able to focus on one individual (ie a prey item) is not crucial but remaining vigilant for potential predators remains important, as such, the position of the eye sockets in sheep (and most herbivores) is very lateral allowing (in conjunction with pupil shape) a view of up to 320 degrees.

This example of a herbivore’s skull can be compared to those of carnivores and omnivores.