Museum of Osteology: Tegu skull

July 3, 2013

MoO 2013 - Tegu skull

Another shot from my visit last month to the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City: the business end of a tegu (Tupinambis). Lots of cool stuff in this pic: heterodont dentition, wacky sclerotic ossicles, and some sweet neurovascular foramina along the maxilla. Someone should knock out a shrink-wrapped life restoration, a la All Todays.

8 Responses to “Museum of Osteology: Tegu skull”

  1. Mike Taylor Says:

    The shocking thing about this, for me anyway, is how heavily fused the skull is. Compare with this monitor lizard, for example.

    I wonder if this is a taxonomic difference, or merely ontological? I suspect the former: I have a monitor skull right here in the room with me, and it was from a very aged individual, but it’s still very light.

  2. Mark Robinson Says:

    Mike, the amount of fusion surprised me too, but not as much as the amount of bone in its eye. Way more than monitor or mosasaur skulls I’ve seen. Perhaps it is a skink thing.

  3. brian engh Says:

    Based on my personal observations (I used to have a tegu, and several of my friends kept various monitors) I definitely agree with Mike that the skull differences have to do with lifestyle. Tegus love eggs and snails, and the ‘Caiman Lizards’ (genus Dracaena of the same family Teiidae) feed heavily on large aquatic snails and crustaceans and even have special teeth adapted for crushing their shells. Not only do monitors and tegus tend to have slightly different diets, they also use their body and jaws differently when attacking prey. When fed rodents (usually adult mice, but sometimes weaned rats), my 2 foot tegu would bite them really hard and crush them completely, sometimes shaking them, but often killing them in one bite. Similar sized monitors on the other hand, tend to bite and shake such prey, usually beating against things and whip-lashing it into submission, sometimes even ripping it apart in the process (like, if they grab a limb). Also monitors have proportionally much longer necks, and somewhat longer bodies than tegus, and they will often bite things and S curve their neck and body to drag their serrated teeth through it.

    I’m sure Jaime Hadden has some bite-force related goodness to add to this discussion… where you at dude?

  4. brian engh Says:

    oh yeah, and monitors are mildly venomous… Anyone know if tegus have some crazy proteins in their saliva too?

  5. LeeB Says:

    Apparently tegu’s do not have venomous saliva.
    This is discussed here:


  6. Allen Hazen Says:

    Mike Taylor (#1)–
    For “ontological” read “ontogenetic”?

    B.t.w.– been reading Simon Knell’s “The Great Fossil Enigma” (great story… though about critters a lot older than Sauropods), and the acknowledgments thank his good friend Mike Taylor for reading the first draft: you, or another Mike Taylor?

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Ha! Yes, ontogenetic, of course! Well spotted. (I won’t cheat by going back and editing it now, I’ll let my dumb mistake stand.)

    That is one of the other Mike Taylors, most likely the Scottish marine-reptile specialist.

  8. […] nice display from the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City (previous MoO posts here and here). Check out the really gnarly ones that are indeed growing right through the bones of the face. […]

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