What on Earth? Skull Feature

Question: Do you know what the whole on top of this skull is called? Which group of animals typically has this feature?

Click and find out!

Answer: Parietal Eye on a Komodo Dragon!

A parietal eye is a photoreceptive organ found in many reptiles, such as the komodo dragon. The eye does not “see” in the conventional sense, because it does not form images but instead is very sensitive to changes in light. When something passes over the head of an animal that has this “eye,” the animal will “duck” or even flee. This is a self-defense mechanism, and is intended to alert the animal to potential predators.

The parietal eye found in animals is connected to the myths of the human “third eye,” found in religions and practices such as Hinduism and Taoism. The third eye is associated with enlightenment, clairvoyance, chakras, and a subconscious understanding of unseen changes in one’s environment. Those acclaimed to have the capacity to use their third eye are known as “seers.” Most of those who believe in the third eye say that it would be situated on the forehead between the two physical eyes, similar to what is seen on the skull of the komodo dragon.

Some believe that humans once had a third eye, but as they evolved, the eye sunk into what is now the pineal gland. The pineal gland is light sensitive, and is theorized to release the hallucinogenic chemical, N,N-Dimethyltryptamine. When an animal, such as a komodo dragon, has a parietal eye, it is connected to the pineal gland, giving the organ increased sensitivity.

At SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology, we display many animal skulls featuring the hole for the parietal eye. By situating animals like lizards so closely to different species like land mammals and birds, we offer countless opportunities for comparison and discovery.

During Education Programs, we teach lessons involving animal adaptations, skull identification, predator-prey relationships, and more. Visit our Education Programs page to see what your students can learn from real skeletons during a field trip to the museum!