Muskrat Skull - Ondatra zibethicus
The common muskrat, also known as Ondatra zibethicus, is a medium-sized semi-aquatic rodent that thrives in wetland habitats throughout North America and an introduced species in parts of Europe, Asia, and South America. The muskrat's name likely comes from a word of Algonquian (possibly Powhatan) origin, muscascus (meaning "red") or from the Abenaki native word mòskwas. Because of the musky odor it uses to mark its territory and it's flattened tail, the name was altered to musk-beaver. It was later changed to muskrat because of it's resemblance to rats. The muskrat builds nests to protect itself and its young, sometimes underground and sometimes above ground with an underwater entrance (similarly to beavers and their lodges, although they are not closely related to beaver). Well-adapted to aquatic life, it has two layers of thick, waterproof brown fur to protect it from cold water, as well as semi-webbed toes and a powerful tail that helps propel it through water like a whip. Muskrats feed mostly on cattail and other aquatic vegetation, but also eat small animals such as frogs.
The average adult muskrat’s skull is about 2.3 inches long, and 1.6 inches wide. Each of its front incisors is about 3mm wide and between 15 and 20mm long. Our muskrat skulls are obtained as by-products of fur trade and population control (the muskrat is considered a pest in many different regions). They would’ve been discarded otherwise. This specimen comes with their jaw glued shut.
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