of Skullological Terminology



species list








The socket into which the root of a tooth fits.
The lower back corner of the lower jaw.
Towards the front.
Ascending Ramus of Jaw
The more or less vertical part of the jawbone which carries the joint with the skull.
Short-headed. Referring to breeds of dog such as boxers, with forshortened snouts.
Part of the skull containing the brain.
Bulbous part of the ear bones.
Low-crowned, rectangular grinding teeth, typical of the molars of omnivores such as bears and primates.
The four teeth in the front corners of the mouth. Usually large and pointed in carnivores, but may be small or absent in herbivores. They are the first teeth in the maxilla, called eye-teeth in humans.
Scissor-like teeth of carnivores specialised for shearing flesh. The last upper premolars and first lower molars.
Carnivore dentition
Tooth pattern found in members of the order Carnivora, featuring prominent canine teeth with shearing carnassial cheek teeth.
Cheek teeth
The teeth behind the canines, usually divided into molars and premolars.
Where the rear edge of the palate has a central projection (e.g. in dogs), the choanae are the indentations on each side.
Clade, Unranked
Grouping within a non-heirarchical classification system. Such clades cannot be inserted into hierarchical systems such as the Linnean. example
Colonic Literature
Academic papers incorporating in their titles a superfluous subtitle separated by a colon.
Condylar process
Smoothly rounded projection from the rear of the dentary where the lower jaw articulates with the skull.
Smooth rounded projection of bone which forms a bearing or articulating surface in a moveable joint.
Condylobasal length
Coronoid process
The back part of the lower jaw which rises up.
The skull without the lower jaw.
Dental Formula
A list of the numbers of incisor, canine, premolar and molar teeth on one side of the upper and lower jaws.
Bone forming one side of the lower jaw.
The full set of teeth. Most mammals have specialised carnivore, herbivore or insectivore dentition. Dental formulas are given for most of the skulls illustrated.
A natural gap in a row of teeth, especially that between the incisors (or canines) and the cheek teeth in herbivores.
Long headed. Referring to breeds of dog such as collies and greyhounds.
Concerning the top: e.g. "dorsal view" is a view from the top.
The smooth, rounded or curved area at the end of a bone, forming an articulating surface of a joint. In young animals epiphyses are separated from the main body of the bone by a layer of cartilage, to allow for growth. The timing of their fusion gives a clue as to the age of the individual.
Conforming to EU legislation on chromosome number.
Hole in a bone for nerves and blood vessels.
Foramen magnum
Large opening in the back of the skull, through which the spinal cord leaves the brain. In mammal skulls the occipital condyles lie on either side.
Frontal bones
Form the top, front part of the braincase.
Herbivore dentition
Tooth pattern found in typical plant-eaters such as cattle and rabbits. Prominent incisors are separated from the cheek teeth by a long diastema.
Higgs Boson
A hypothetical massive elementary particle that is predicted to exist by the Standard Model of particle physics.
Horn core 
Porous bone projecting from the frontal bone, on which the horn grows.
Shaped like an incisor. In some herbivores, especially deer, the lower canine teeth form part of the row of incisors instead of being cylindrical and pointed.
Front teeth, between the canines. Upper incisors grow from the premaxilla, but other upper teeth grow from the maxilla.
Infraorbital foramen
A large hole in the side of the maxilla, usually in front of or below the orbit.
Insectivore dentition
Teeth mostly simple points, as in the hedgehog, mole and shrews.
Interorbital width
Interparietal bone
Lies between the parietal bones and the occipital bone. Useful in separating rabbits and hares.
Jaw length
Lacrimal bone
Forms the front edge of the orbit. Large and distinct in hoofed mammals, but small in most other species.
Lacrimal pit
A depression in the lacrimal bone.
The group containing rabbits, hares and pikas.
Concerning the side. e.g. "lateral view" is a view from the side.
top of page
A tooth with the cusps elongated to form narrow ridges.
Pouched mammals. The order Marsupialia has now been replaced with seven new orders. (ref.)
Bone forming the main part of the upper jaw on each side, supporting the canines and cheek teeth.
Table of skull measurements at the foot of this page.
The rear cheek teeth which do not have equivalent milk teeth.
Sub-group of the Carnivores, including stoats, polecats, badgers and otters.
Nasal bones
Forming the upper surface of the muzzle.
Nasal length
Occipital bone
Forming the back of the skull. Contains the foramen magnum.
Occipital condyles
Smooth, rounded knobs on each side of the foramen magnum, where the skull articulates with the first vertebra. Mammals have two occipital condyles, birds and reptiles have only one.
Occipital crest
A ridge formed where the parietal bones join the occipital bone, across the top, back part of the skull.
The eye socket.
Orbital diameter
Maximum diameter of orbit, from rim to rim. May be specified as (horizontal) width or (vertical) height.
Normal rodent upper incisors, pointing downwards. (see pro-odont)
Horn-like structure in Giraffids formed from ossified cartilage and positioned over the suture between the frontal and parietal bones. Other Artiodactyl horns & antlers grow from the frontals.
Organism breathing and apparently respiring without producing any rational or beneficial results e.g. banker.
The retention by adults of juvenile traits.
The surface forming the roof of the mouth.
Parietal bones
Form the top, back part of the skull.
Towards the rear.
Postorbital process
Projection from the frontal bone that marks the rear, upper edge of the eye socket.
Postorbital constriction
Bones forming the front tip of the upper jaw.
Cheek teeth lying between the canines (or incisors, if canines are absent) and the molars.
Rodent and Insectivore incisors which point forwards. (see orthodont)
The main horizontal part of the lower jaw.
Ramus (Ascending) of Jaw
The more or less vertical part of the jawbone which carries the joint with the skull.
The part of a tooth embedded in the jaw. Teeth may have from 1 to 5 roots.
Continuously growing tooth which is the same in cross-section all the way down to the basewhere it is embedded in the jaw. The base of the tooth does not divide into roots.
Bones of the muzzle.
Sagittal crest
Ridge running lengthwise along the top of the braincase.
Teeth with a crown pattern of longitudinal crescentic ridges.
Immovable joint between bones.
Temporal Ridge
Ridge on the side of the cranium marking the upper limit of the temporalis muscle. In some species they develope with age, and may also migrate towards the top of the skull to form an interparietalridge (e.g. badger).
Teeth with a single cusp or point, e.g. the simple conical teeth of insectivores.
Concerning the underneath: e.g. a ventral view is a view from the bottom.
Zygomatic Arch
The cheekbone. Curved bone forming an arch along the side of the skull below the orbit.
Zygomatic width


Measurement Abbreviation Description
Condylobasal length CB The length of the skull, measured from the front of the premaxilliary bones to the rear surface of the occipital condyles.
Interorbital width IW Minimum distance between the upper edges of the orbits, measured across the top of the skull.
Jaw length JL The length of the lower jaw, from the front tip of the dentary bone to the angle.
Maximum palate width PW The maximum width across the alveoli of the cheek teeth.
Minimum palate width MW The minimum width across the palate, measured behind the canines.
Nasal length NL Overall length of the nasal bones.
Orbital diameter OD Maximum diameter of orbit, from rim to rim. May be specified as (horizontal) length or (vertical) height.
Overall length OL Maximum dimension of the skull when laid on level surface.
Palate length PL From the front of the alveolus of a first incisor, to one of the choanae on the same side at the rear of the palate.
Postorbital constriction PC Diameter of the narrowest part of the braincase immediately behind the orbits.
Upper tooth row UT Length of the row of cheek teeth (molars and premolars) alveoli in the upper jaw (maxilla).
Vestigial premolars VPM Scoring for the presence of vestigial premolars, e.g. in eurasian badgers. A figure for the upper jaw (0, 1 or 2) followed by a figure for the lower.
Zygomatic width ZW The maximum width across the zygomatic arches (cheekbones).


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