Archive for the ‘Language and animals’ Category

The animal report

July 14, 2014

In the NYT Book Review yesterday, a set of three reviews of quirky books about people and animals (elephants, a tawny owl, and the giant squid); and then today in the Daily Post (Palo Alto and Mid-Peninsula), the story “Another cougar reported” (by Angelo Ruggiero), which I took at first to be a silly story about sexually aggressive older women in the area but which turned out (of course) to be about mountain lions.



July 8, 2014

In the latest (7/5/14) New Scientist, a “60 seconds” (ultra-brief) feature “Bouncing on five legs”:

Kangaroos have five “legs”, making them the first known pentapedal animals. A study of kangaroo motion suggests their tails aren’t simply a crutch but actively move them forward, producing as much propulsive force as all four limbs combined (Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0381).

What about starfish? Aren’t they pentapedal animals? What about primates that use their tails (in addition to their hands and legs) to propel themselves?

Well, it depends on what you mean by animal and what you mean by leg. Starfish are customarily said to have five arms, and primates to have only two legs (but four limbs, plus, for some, a tail that can function rather like another limb).


Museum notes

April 27, 2014

The world of museums is full of marvelous oddities: in particular, remarkably specialized museums, of all sizes (there are also grab-bag museums: local museums, exhibiting anything having some connection, however remote, to the locality, and eccentric museums, gathering together all sorts of things that have caught the collector’s eye).

Two specialized museums that have come by me recently: one that’s a fresh mention of an old friend, the Frog Museum in Estavayer-le-Lac, Switzerland; and a new acquaintance, the Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik.



April 21, 2014

Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky’s flower photos — piles and piles of them, since so many flowers, some with brief blossoming times, are in bloom now — include a number with spiders in them. Well, actually, not spiders, but harvestmen, a similar-looking but quite distinct creature. Here’s one on its own:



Ambiguity for leeches

April 15, 2014

Posted by Neil Copeland on Facebook and passed on by Mar Rojo, this article from the New Zealand Press, by Rachel Young, with the headline:

Is this NZ’s creepiest crawly?

and the subhead:

Rare land leeches have been found on several offshore islands, one of which is now headed to Te Papa [the museum in Wellington]

The ambiguity of the subhead elicited some discussion:  is it a land leech or an offshore island that’s headed to Te Papa? (Details below.)


Annals of hybridity

April 7, 2014

Passed on by Jonathan Lighter, this story of the 4th from Herald Scotland:, “Meet Farmer Murphy’s geep (or shoat): now what will he call it?”

An Irish farmer who claims to have bred a cross between a sheep and a goat is seeking a name for the rare offspring.

… Similar crossings have been reported before in Chile, Jamaica, Malta and in Botswana, where scientists found a hybrid – known as the Toast of Botswana – had 57 chromosomes, a number in between that of sheep and goats.

In most cases the offspring is stillborn.

A photo:


Bird life

April 6, 2014

Some time ago, Arne Adolfsen posted on Facebook about seagulls in Chicamauga GA, well inland. Commenters noted that, amomg other things, gulls were attracted to garbage dumps (and other places where edibles were to be found).

I then realized that though gulls were easily found a few miles away from my house — which is close to the San Francisco Bay and not far from the ocean — I didn’t see them in my neighborhood. (Gulls are large and noisy, so they’d be hard to miss.)

But we do have large and noticeable birds.


Canine portmanteaus

January 31, 2014

From Kim Darnell, a link to this HuffPo piece,”These 19 Adorably Awkward Mixed Breed Dogs Will Make You Love Mutts Even More” by Amanda Scherker on 1/29/14. In the tradition of established mixed breeds like the labradoodle and cockapoo come more, mostly with portmanteau names to go along with the breed crossing.



November 24, 2013

From the Beautiful Farmyard card set, one showing the Runner strain of ducks, with this wonderful note:

Runners flock together and are often seen today at sheepdog demonstrations, much to the delight of the crowd.

From Wikipedia:

Indian Runners (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus) are an unusual breed of domestic duck. They stand erect like penguins and, rather than waddling, they run.


November 15, 2013

In the Beautiful Farmyard set, a card for the lionhead rabbit:

(This one is gray; they come in many colors.)

Lionhead rabbit is one of the newer breeds of domestic rabbits in the United States … The Lionhead rabbit has a wool mane encircling the head, reminiscent of a male lion, hence the name.

… The Lionhead rabbit originated in Belgium. It is reported to have been produced by breeders trying to breed a long coated dwarf rabbit by crossing a miniature Swiss Fox and a Belgian dwarf. This resulted in a genetic mutation causing wool to appear around the head and on the flanks. This gene has come to be known as the “mane” gene. (Wikipedia link)

“A cross between a Swiss Fox and a Belgian dwarf”: beautiful.


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