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  • {♫Intro♫}

  • Names are important. They help us identify people and things, and to categorize our world.

  • And in biology, they can help us understand important details about a living thing, like

  • where it lives, or what other living things it's most closely related to.

  • But sometimes, the common names we use for things are justthey're not just bad,

  • they're wrong.

  • The cool thing, though, is even those nameswrong as they may becan still show us a lot about

  • how we think about living things.

  • They can reveal what traits of an animal we find most important, or how our understanding

  • of the relatedness between living creatures has developed over time.

  • So even the most terrible names for things can be kind of enlightening when you dive

  • deeper into understanding why the names are so wrong.

  • Let's start with the mountain chicken, which isn't a chicken. It's not even a bird.

  • It's a frog. A brown, banded and splotched frog that lives on a couple islands in the

  • Lesser Antilles.

  • I guess you could say they live in the mountains, though they're found from sea level to about

  • four hundred meters in altitude, not the peaks of the islands.

  • There does seem to be a somewhat reasonable explanation for the chicken part, though:

  • their taste.

  • You see, mountain chickens were a prized delicacy for the people of Montserrat and Dominica.

  • Adult females can be up to twenty-one centimeters long, while the males are slightly smaller.

  • So each has lots of juicy frog flesh to offer, if you're into that.

  • And apparently they do taste like chicken.

  • But the name could also come from their distinctive chicken-like call that echoes through the

  • steep sides of valleys where they live.

  • Or, where they used to live, anyway.

  • People once harvested thousands of these frogs yearly.

  • But then the fungal disease chytridiomycosis hit Dominica in 2002 and Montserrat in 2009.

  • That brought their numbers down from thousands to just two.

  • With the arrival of the disease, each island enacted a permanent hunting banin 2003

  • on Dominica, and 2014 on Montserrat. And since then, the population has steadily risen.

  • It now sits at around one hundred thirty-two, total, which is more than two, but still so

  • very few, which is why the species continues to be considered critically endangered.

  • So we had a chicken that was a frog, and now we've got the horny toad that isn't a

  • toad, it's a group of spiny lizards in the genus Phrynosoma.

  • This is one of those cases where the common name is based more on looks than scientific classifications.

  • See, a couple of features make them stand out from other lizardsand they also explain

  • why they're named after a puffy amphibian.

  • For one, their body shape is flattened top to bottom, which gives them a more rounded appearance.

  • They also have short, bent legs.

  • And they're reluctant to run away from predators. Instead, they puff themselves up when threatened,

  • making them look even more toad-like.

  • They're not trying to look like a toad, thoughthey're making use of their most

  • striking feature: their spikes.

  • These sharp spikes cover most of its body but are particularly big at the back of their heads.

  • And when they puff themselves up, they basically turn their bodies into big medieval flails.

  • The idea is to make them look so big and dangerous that predators, especially those that like

  • to eat their prey whole, will not be interested.

  • If approached, they'll toss their heads backwards to pierce their attacker and direct

  • them towards less vital parts of their body, like their tail.

  • And if the attack continues, these not-toads have one more gruesome trick: They can squirt

  • blood directly from their eyes.

  • They do this by increasing the blood pressure in their head so blood escapes through the

  • orbital sinus—a little air cavity near their eyeball.

  • The double whammy of ouch and gross can give them enough time to run away and avoid becoming

  • a meal.

  • True to this list thus far, the slowworm of Europe and Russia is not a worm, despite its

  • long body and burrowing habits. It's definitely a vertebrate and not some kind of annelid.

  • Germans actually call them Blindschleiche or shining snakes, which is a bit closer,

  • but they're not snakes, either. They're actually legless lizards!

  • Slowworms have several tell-tale lizard features, like their blinking eyelids and ability to

  • get rid ofand then regrowtheir tails.

  • That tail-dropping ability is what gave them the Latin name fragilis, meaning fragile.

  • But this lizard is no china doll. Tail-dropping is actually a clever defense mechanism.

  • By giving a would-be predator a snack or distraction, the lizard has the chance to run away with

  • its vital bits intact.

  • Regrowing their tails is a slow process, as only about five millimeters grows over two weeks.

  • But that's not where the slow in their names comes from.

  • That's mostly an accident of linguistics. You see, in Old English, they were called slawyrms.

  • Over time, sla became slow, but in Old English, it doesn't mean the opposite of fast.

  • We're not a hundred percent sure whether it was supposed to be slā with a diacritic,

  • which meant earthworm, or sla, without the little line over it, which was a general term

  • for venomous bitey or stingy things.

  • Though we do know wyrm, with a Y, referred to both worms and elongated reptileshence

  • the use of it nowadays to refer to serpent-y dragons.

  • So you could translate the Old English name toearthworm-y elongated reptile”—which

  • is pretty accurate.

  • Or it may have beenvenomous elongated reptile”, which isn't so accurate because

  • they're not considered venomous, but hey, at least they got the taxonomic class right.

  • It seems like we call pretty much any long, noodly creature a worm. Take the silkworm

  • for example, which isn't a worm at all but the larval stage of the silkworm moth.

  • At least the silk part of its name is right.

  • When they reach the end of the caterpillar part of their life cycle, these little guys

  • spin cocoons made of silk proteins. Actual worms can't do that.

  • And these so-called worms don't mess around when it comes to making silk.

  • They can spin an average of nine point four to nine point six millimeters of the stuff

  • every second.

  • That's why around ninety-nine percent of the world's silk supply comes from the mouths

  • of one particular silkworm speciesBombyx mori.

  • And that silk is not just for fancy scarves and blouses. There are lots of applications

  • in chemical and medical fields, too.

  • The reason silk is so useful is that it's a protein polymer that can be transformed

  • into different materials by dissolving it in a salt solution or adding enzymes.

  • In fact, we loved silkworm silk so much that we domesticated the species that makes it.

  • And the species has been so altered by centuries of artificial selection that it can't survive

  • without our help. The adult moths can't even fly!

  • You'd be forgiven for mistaking red pandas as pandas because of their bamboo-eating habits.

  • But they're actually in a class of their own. Or, a family, anyway.

  • Red pandas belong to the family Ailuridae, which is often classified as part of the weasel

  • superfamily Musteloidea.

  • Classifying red pandas based on who they're most related to has proven difficult because

  • they share a lot of physiological features with other groups.

  • The common name 'panda' was suggested when the animal was presented to the western

  • scientific community back in 1821—because they eat bamboo.

  • And they also have other panda-ish traits.

  • For example, they have a pseudo-thumb—a lump of modified wrist bonewhich helps

  • them grasp bamboo like their giant panda counterparts.

  • But they look very different from pandas in other wayslike, the shape of their head

  • and teeth, and their stripy tail.

  • And those are why, in 1825, they were officially classified as part of the raccoon family.

  • But having similar physical traits doesn't always mean two things are closely related.

  • So about a century and a half laterwith the help of DNA evidencered pandas were

  • lumped back in with bears again. And still, that placement wasn't quite right.

  • Additional genetic evidence now suggests they're more closely related to weasels, but are probably

  • distinct enough to be their own family.

  • And that makes sense because they have some really special features, that don't show

  • up other places. Like their super flexible ankles and rotating fibulasor shin bonesthat

  • let them climb head-first down trees.

  • Animals aren't the only living things we're terrible at naming. Lots of plants also have

  • bad names. Like strawberries.

  • They are not straw, and they are not even berries, botanically speaking.

  • See, to botanists, categories of fruit like berries have strict definitions based on what

  • parts are fleshy and how the fruit forms.

  • On the texture front, berries need to be squishy throughout.

  • That is, the three layers that surround the seedthe endocarp, mesocarp, and exocarpall

  • have to be soft.

  • And that is true of strawberries, so at least they meet some berry criteria. But what makes

  • them not berries is how they form.

  • All fruits form from the ovaries of flowers, which sit at the base of female reproductive

  • organs called pistils.

  • Plants can have different numbers of flowers or multiple pistils in each flower. But berries,

  • by definition, are a simple fruit meaning they develop from one ovary in one flower.

  • Strawberries come from flowers that have many ovaries in them, making them an aggregate

  • fruit. They're basically like raspberries...which are also not berries.

  • What do count as true berries are blueberries, grapes, and, weirdly enough, bananas.

  • And of course, none of this changes what we call these things, and it's not gonna change

  • what I'm putting in my berry muffins, either

  • On the subject of culinary misnomers, let's talk about walnuts.

  • Yup, you guessed itthey're not nuts... or walls… I guess.

  • Remember how berries had to be fleshy throughout? Well, nuts, by definition,

  • aren't fleshy at all.

  • They're dry fruits characterized by a super thick, hard exocarp. And they're indehiscent,

  • meaning they don't open up to shed their seeds.

  • Walnuts are a different kind of fruit sometimes called a drupe, where the endocarp is hard,

  • the exocarp is thin, and the mesocarp in between is fleshy or fibrous.

  • I know what you're thinkingthat doesn't really sound like the whole walnuts you can

  • buy at the store.

  • That's because those walnuts are actually just the hard endocarps.

  • On the tree, walnuts have a fleshy, soft casing. We just don't see it most of the time because

  • that casing is removed before they get to supermarket shelves.

  • So I guess the lesson is you shouldn't name a nut by its cover...or the exterior you see

  • at the store, anyway. Last but not least, we have the Snake Lilywhich

  • is a pretty nice name.

  • It's definitely nicer than some of its other names, like devil's tongue, or its Latin

  • name, which translates to misshapen penis.

  • All these names come from its distinctive spadixthe floral spike in the middle of

  • the flowerwhich kind of resembles a snake orother things.

  • Trouble is, this plant is neither a snake, which you would have expected, nor a lily.

  • Lillies are flowers from the genus Lilium, which were originally classified based on

  • their many, scale-like leaves, and their upright stems and flowers.

  • Snake lilies might have gotten lumped in with true lilies because of how similar they look

  • to another faux-lily: the peace lily.

  • And in fact, peace and snake lilies are part of the same familythe Araceae or arum plants,

  • which all have that unique spadix.

  • The snake lily is actually in the same genus as the smelly corpse flower Amorphophallus

  • titanum, and it uses a similar smell to attract carrion-eating insects for pollination.

  • And it might just be me, but it seems unfair that one gets to be a cool-sounding snake

  • lilly while the other is called the corpse flower?

  • Names are supposed to help us sort the things around us into useful groups, but they're

  • not always great at that.

  • Some names can give you an idea of what a living thing looks like, but often, the utility

  • stops there. And some, like the mountain chicken, don't even tell us that much!

  • Instead, they say more about usfrom our palates to our linguistic errors.

  • Perhaps it's time to reconsider some of these misleading names. Though, I guess, “berry-flavored

  • red aggregateornutty-tasting drupedon't really have the same ring to them.

  • Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow! If you like learning about misleading names

  • we have for things, you'll probably love our list show of bad animal names where we

  • explained how jackrabbits aren't rabbits and mountain lions aren't lions. In fact,

  • I bet you'll love a lot of our episodesso why not just subscribe? All you have to do

  • is click that little button with the word 'subscribe' on it.

  • {♫Outro♫}

{♫Intro♫}

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生き物にはもっとひどい名前が8つ (8 More Terrible Names for Living Things)

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    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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