Archive for the ‘Language and animals’ Category

Primate testicle size

July 27, 2015

From the July 18th New Scientist, in the In Brief section, “Zoologger: The sex-addicted tiny lemur with giant testicles” (on-line; in print, “Tiny lemur is best endowed primate”):

“Oh my god! How do they manage to walk and climb without bumping these things on every branch?” asked Johanna Rode-Margono the first time she saw the testicles of a giant mouse lemur close up.

In turns out they don’t. They stumble and bump their balls with almost every step they take, says Rode-Margono, who is at Oxford Brookes University, UK. At a mere 300 grams, the lemur is roughly squirrel-sized. But for its size, it has the largest testicles in the primate world (American Journal of Physical Anthropology,

If we had the same testes size, relative to weight, the average man would have balls as big as grapefruits, says Rode-Margono.

The lemurs mate all year round but constant copulation has not saved them from deforestation – fewer than 17,000 giant mouse lemurs are left, she says.


Misleadingly named animals

July 27, 2015

Via Kim Darnell on Facebook (a very long time ago), this poster:

Eight composite names — some N + N, some Adj + N. The question here is the semantic contribution of each of the parts. The poster deliberately disregards the fact that these are common names, not technical labels from biology; and it insists on treating these names as definitions, which is something no mere label can do. And it throws in some tongue-in-cheek remarks.


Morning names: naked mole rat, Penn Palestra

July 25, 2015

A double-header this morning. I have no idea where the naked mole rat came from. The Palestra at Penn was undoubtedly prompted by the music of Palestrina, which was playing on WQXR when I woke — though it turns out that palaestras and Palestrina have nothing to do with one another etymologically, nor has either of them anything to do with palisades.



July 17, 2015

This morning’s name was yellowjacket, a kind of wasp — relevant now that we’re in high summer, getting into yellowjacket season. That led me to the excellent technical term trophallaxis. Here’s the Western yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica, the scourge of picnics in this part of the world:


Soothing boxes: or the pleasures of corrugation

July 13, 2015

Today’s Zippy:


Zippy finds cardboard boxes aesthetically satisfying as well as soothing to crouch in.



July 13, 2015

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water —


it was Shark Week again, and Findependence Day!


Homing lizards

July 8, 2015

From yesterday’s animal news in the NYT Science Times, a tantalizing story, “Mystery of the Lizards That Know the Way Home”, by James Gorman, about anoles.


Morning names: booklouse

July 7, 2015

Not actually a louse, but it looks a bit like one:

Liposcelis bostrichophila, a globally distributed booklouse



June 29, 2015

Separate animals, sheep and hippo, together (the pair embraced in the portmanteau shippo):


From an old friend (whose birthday is today). The hippo is William, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a present I gave her some years ago. Now she writes:

I always have him someplace I can look at him. Last week I came home from China with this sheep made out of soap, and they seemed made for each other.

Some words about William.


Gay Pride

June 27, 2015

Passed on to me by Paul Foster from a Facebook source:

Rather more adult males than you’d expect in a pride of lions — but then these are gay lions, so they bond with pleasure.


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