Check out these awesome dinosaurs. All pretty and baller and songbirdy and stuff!

Yup, birds are dinos. There are “avian dinosaurs” (Saurischia), which have hips that have legs sticking straight out underneath them, and “non-avian dinosaurs” (Ornithischia - confusingly, translates as “bird-hipped”), which have legs that splayed out to the sides. Birds first appeared during the Jurassic period, 150 million years ago, and they’re the only surviving member of the Dinosauria clade.

All carnivorous dinosaurs were warm-blooded, and were Saurischians. One of the two primary herbivorous dinosaur lines is also Saurischian - the Sauropodopmorpha (including Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, and Argentinosaurus) branched off around 230 mya, but well-known dinosaurs such as triceratops and stegosaurus are comparatively unrelated to modern birds.

Birds: The Late Evolution of Dinosaurs.

Dinobuzz: Are birds really dinosaurs?


Giant Heron and Sea Eagle
Pied Hornbill, Andean Condor, Leadbeater’s Cockatoo
xkcd: Birds and Dinosaurs
Ostrich, Weaver Birds
Rock Penguin, Roseate Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo

Wild Life of the World. Richard Lydekker, 1916.

The New Natural History

Both alive and in the form of their skeletons the radiolarians are surpassingly beautiful. They are all marine, and live in zones from the surface to several thousand fathoms. Certain species which live in depths below one hundred fathoms, and whose bodies contain a dark green or black pigment, are probably phosphorescent. - Richard Lydekker, The new Natural History.

Richard Lydekker - Radiolarians - c.1889 - 1890.


Despite the ancient origins of the Greek [and later, via French, Latin] suffix -logia, and eventually -ology, the addition of -ology to mean “the study of” a subject didn’t begin in earnest until the mid-1800s. A few related words (such as theology) existed before then, but it was not a commonly-used root in the sciences before that period.

Today, though, it’s a ubiquitous root, used in science and nonce words alike. Want to study some animal -ologies? Here are a few of those fields!

[Of course, many of these fields of study don’t universally use the Latin/Greek name, but it’s fun to know!]

Biology: The study of organic life. The root bio- is from the Greek bios, meaning “the way of life, the way one lives” (properly-formed example: biography), so “biology” takes some liberties with its modern definition.

Zoology: The study of animals. From Greek zoion (animal, living being).

  • Birds! Ornithology
    Extinct birds! Paleornithology
    - Bird nests! Caliology
    - Bird eggs! Oology- Nestlings! Neossology
    - Bird feathers! Pteryolology

  • Bugs! Entomology
    - Honeybees! Apiology
    All bees! Mellitology
    - Wasps! Vespology
    - Beetles! Coleopterology
    Grasshoppers! Orthopterology [rare alt. Acridilogy]
    - Flies! Dipterology
    - Ants! Myrmecology
    - Bugs on dead people! Forensic entomology
    - Pollination! Anthecology

  • Arachnids! Arachnology
    Spiders! Araneology
    - Ticks and mites! Acarology

  • Other Arthropods! Arthropodology
    Crabs! Carcinology
    - Centipedes and millipedes! Myriapodology
    Squids, octopi, and other molluscs! Malacology 
    - Shells! Conchology

  • Fish! Ichthyology
    Sharks and rays! Elasmobranchology
    - Freshwater fish! Limnobiology [full freshwater ecosystem]
    - Plankton! Planktology
    Extinct fishes! Palaeichthyology

  • Amphibians and reptiles! Herpetology [amphibians only - Amphibiology]
    - Snakes! Ophiology
    - Frogs! Batrachology
    Turtles! Cheloniology
    - Lizards and geckos! Squamatology or Saurology
    - Salamanders! Caudatology

  • Mammals! Mammology [alt. Mastology, Theriology]
    - Platypuses and echidnas! Monotreme mammalogy
    - Placental mammals! Eutheriology
    Marsupials! Metatheriology
    - Whales! Cetology
    Horses! Hippology
    - Horses but also tapirs and rhinos! Perissodactology
    - Dogs! Cynology
    Cats! Felinology
    - Primates! Primatology

Top: Bichir and trunkfish [top], Electric Catfish [bottom]
Center: Electric “eel” - Electrophorus electricus
Bottom: Indo-Pacific Moray Eel - Muraena nudivomer (now Gymnothorax nudivomer

A while ago I saw this Bird and Moon illustration of animals with misleading names, but I kept seeing people asking, “Ok, if they’re not THAT, then what ARE they?” For some reason, I completely forgot that I wanted to cover those questions, but hey, better late than never!

The electric eel isn’t an eel - it’s a knifefish. Knifefish (Gymnotiformes) are actually more closely related to electric catfish (Siluriformes) than they are to true eels (order Anguilliformes), but developed their electroconductive organs through convergent evolution - the first signs of the organ evolution in both the electric eel and the electric catfish appeared after they shared a common ancestor.

In addition to electric eels and electric catfish, electric rays (order Torpediniformes) are the only other “strongly electric” fishes - that is, fish that produce electric shocks over one volt, and use their electrogenerative organs to either stun or kill prey and/or attackers. There are many fish that can produce a small current (“weakly electric”), but it is used for electrolocation and electrocommunication, instead.

Fishes of Zanzibar: Acanthopterygii. J. Van Voorst, 1866.
The Standard Natural History. John Sterling Kingsley, 1884.
Wild life of the world. Richard Lydekker, 1915.

Wild European Hamster - Cricetus cricetus

The European (or Common) Hamster is a close relative to the Golden Hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) of Turkey and Syria, which was the only species able to be successfully domesticated, at first. Unlike the golden hamster, the European hamster is considered a significant pest of cropland, though in many areas, they’re also considered endangered species, due to aggressive eradication efforts.

Like most members of their sub-order (Cricetinae), European hamsters have cheek-pouches, which extend down to their shoulders. They hoard food in times of plenty, and unlike squirrels and many other rodents of the Americas, actually keep track of where they bury or store their surpluses.

Wild Life of the World. Richard Lydekker, 1916.

Apteryx spp. - The Kiwi

Aside from its obvious qualities, the kiwi bird is surprisingly unique in general. Where flighted birds have hollow bones to conserve weight, kiwis have bone marrow, akin to mammals. They have no keel on the breastbone (to be expected with such nubby wings, as the keel is there to anchor wing muscles), no tail, and a weak gizzard.

Most of the unique traits of the kiwi evolved to allow the bird to fill ecological niches that were open on the New Zealand islands, owing to the lack of mammalian species. The diet, behavior, and even sense of smell are all directly tied to filling in the niche of terrestrial insectivore. Other notable oddities about the kiwi are the cat-like whiskers around their beak and the massive size of their eggs: the bird itself is the size of a chicken, but can lay eggs over six times as large - one quarter the weight of the adult female.

Wild life of the world: a descriptive survey of the geographic distribution of animals. Richard Lydekker, 1915.

Scotoplana sp. - Scotoplane or Sea Pig

The Holothurian (sea cucumber) genus Scotoplanes includes the “Sea Pigs” - deep-sea dwellers that live on the abyssal planes of oceans worldwide, including in the Antarctic. Anywhere over 1000 meters probably hosts Sea Pigs in some number. They prefer freshly-fallen organic matter for their food, and can travel miles to find things like whale carcasses, thanks to their excellent olfactory senses.

Sea Pigs and other sea cucumber species are some of the few hosts that exist on the abyssal floor which are suitable hosts to parasitic snails and tiny crustaceans, and they also serve as an important food source for other deep-sea creatures, such as sleeper sharks.

The Royal Natural History - Vol IV. Richard Lydekker, 1896.

Greater Kudu - Tragelaphus strepsiceros

The Greater Kudu is the spiral-horned antelope you’ll find if you travel farther south than the savanna of central Kenya (north of which, the Lesser Kudu reigns). As a browsing ruminant, they can be found in small herds - though their population is declining rapidly - in most dry, warm, southern grasslands of Africa, where browsing material (bushes and shrubs) and a water supply is present.

Though humans have hunted the Greater Kudu (both for their horns and their meat) since antiquity, and still do to an extent that they’re decreasing in population faster than they can reproduce, there is a curious upside to the modern human presence in southern Africa: as humans divert rivers and water sources to irrigate crops and trees, the territory of the Greater Kudu has increased impressively. The increased amount of dry territory with a water source has allowed the species to roam much farther than it ever would have naturally. Whether the spreading out of the still-declining population is a net gain for the species is not yet known.

Wild Life of the World. Richard Lydekker. Volume III. 1916.

Glutton or Wolverine

Wolverines and other mustelids have an upper molar in the far back of their mouth, that’s rotated 90 degrees towards the inside of the mouth. This lets them rip flesh off of frozen carcasses.

The ability to eat animals that have starved to death, frozen, or otherwise died in the winter is one of the main characteristics that allows the wolverine to not hibernate. The fact that they can bring down large ungulates like elk doesn’t hurt their survival chances.

Wild life of the world: a descriptive survey of the geographic distribution of animals. Richard Lydekker, 1915

Great White Pelican - Pelecanus onocrotalus

The Great White Pelican is among the largest of the pelicans; while Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelicanus crispus) often weigh more than Great Whites, the wingspan of a Great White can reach up to 11.8 ft (360 cm) in length, rivaling only the great albatrosses.

As you can see here, Great “White” pelicans aren’t always white - another name for them is Rosy pelicans, and for good reason. The habitat of Great Whites spans from the Mediterranean to Tibet, from East Africa to the Indian deltas, and across its vast territory, its diet varies considerably. In Africa and Eurasia, their diet consists mainly of small-to-midsized fish, such as mullet and carp.

However, among parts of the Mediterranean and South-East Asia, the predominant food source is small crustaceans, such as shrimp, and that food is very high in substances known as carotenoids. These organic pigments break down into alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which provide essential vitamins, but when there is excess pigment ingested, the unprocessed remainder is pushed into the feathers, giving “White” pelicans a decidedly pink hue. This is the same process that goes on in flamingos - when their diet is rich in carotenoids, they are a flush and vibrant pink, and when it’s not, they’re a much lighter pink, or even close to white.

Wild Life of the World, Vol I. Richard Lydekker, 1916.


East Caucasian Tur - Capra cylindricornis

Turs are goat-antelopes from the upper altitudes of the Greater Caucasus (between the Black and Caspian Seas, in the countries of Georgia and Azerbaijan) Mountains, and reproduce using a combination of the rutting and lek systems, which includes normally-solitary males showing off/competing for females each year -


Wild Oxen, Sheep, and Goats of All Lands. Richard Lydekker, 1898.

Balearica regulorum - Grey Crowned Crane

This flashy bird is the most primitive of the living Gruidae, the family of cranes. Its direct ancestors existed as far back as the Eocene (56-34 mya). Though at least eleven species of crowned crane once existed throughout Europe and North America, they are not a cold-hardy genus, and went extinct over several ice ages. Notable, though, is the fact that the primitive crowned crane was not particularly cold-sensitive, though it possessed a largely identical body form. We know this because the fossils have been found on both sides of the Eocene “Icehouse” event (as well as both sides of the E-O extinction event, though that mostly impacted aquatic fauna), and they clearly survived the Oligocene to have developed into the forms that went extinct during the Neogene Period of the Cenozoic Era.

These days, the Grey Crowned Crane can be found in South Africa and throughout the Serengeti.

Wild Life of the World, a Descriptive Survey of the Geographical Distribution of Animals. Richard Lydekker, 1915.

The Cape Ratel

The dentition of the ratel baffled naturalists for quite a while after their discovery. Though it was physically built much akin to the badgers, the teeth were far more similar to that of a cat. The claws are unretractable (like dogs and badgers), but the fur is wiry and protective, and the hide “tougher than tanned leather”, which neither badgers, nor cats, nor dogs possess. The singular toughness of the hide and the extremely well-rooted and strong canines of the ratel are two of the several characteristics that led naturalists to eventually place it in its own genus.

In The Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society (E. T. Bennett, 1835), the ratel is described as a poor climber, though accounts of them climbing short distances (<20 ft) up tree trunks seems well-documented elsewhere, in later books and papers.

That book also describes one of the assistants at the zoo attempting to pick up a ratel by the scruff of the neck (as they did with other quadrupeds) and having his arm savaged, as well as South African ratels staving off (if not killing) packs of dogs that had previously brought down moderately-sized male lions without a problem. It’s fantastically colorful.

The New Natural History. Richard Lydekker, 1890.