Sutures on a White-tailed Deer Skull

White-tailed deer skull

I found this white-tailed deer skull along with other parts of the carcass while exploring off-trail in an area of the woods that was not easy to navigate. I was not surprised that it was in this relative wilderness where a deer had either been taken down, probably by a coyote, or had gone to die a natural death.

Although the skull is damaged, the zig-zag markings on the top are beautifully intact. Similar to

spalting, which is a network of lines marking fungal boundaries in wood, these cranial sutures mark boundaries between bones. When the deer was young, the sutures were fibrous areas that allowed the bones to expand. They also indicate stresses placed on the skull by chewing. In male deer, the largest sutures (the coronal pair that meander horizontally across the top of the skull) indicate the presence of antlers. The smaller wiggly line in the back of the skull is the lambdoid, and the vertical one extended towards the mouth is the sagittal suture.