Archive for the ‘Language and animals’ Category


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.

Another animal portmanteau

November 6, 2013

In the Beautiful Farmyard postcard set, one for the Brahmousin:

Hybrids of many kinds are named by portmanteaus; the names mirror the things. So it is with the Brahmousin.


Animal -zilla

November 5, 2013

A story that combines libfixes, extraordinary animals, and science reporting. From Stan Carey yesterday, a pointer to this BBC News science story, ” ‘Platypus-zilla’ fossil unearthed in Australia” by Rebecca Morelle:

Part of a giant platypus fossil has been unearthed in Queensland, Australia. Scientists have dubbed the beast “platypus-zilla” and believe it would have measured more than 1m long (3ft).

Writing in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the researchers say the creature lived between five and 15 million years ago.

… Today, all that survives of this platypus is a single fossilised tooth, which was unearthed in the Riversleigh fossil beds in northwest Queensland.

Based on its size, the researchers have estimated that the new species (Obdurodon tharalkooschild) would have been at least twice as large as today’s platypus.

Bumps on its teeth and other fossil finds nearby suggest that the creature feasted on crustaceans, turtles, frogs and fish.


Campbell Drake

November 3, 2013

In my packet of Beautiful Farmyard images recently, one of a Campbell drake, a male Campbell duck. Another image, with the duck perched on one leg and with its head folded back:

According to Beautiful Farmyard,

Active ducks, Campbells prefer foraging to brooding.

Note the ambiguity of the verb brood here.



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