CLOSE
Flickr: gamppart
Flickr: gamppart

10 More Lesser-Known Names for Baby Animals

Flickr: gamppart
Flickr: gamppart

We’ve already gathered up barely-heard-of names for newborn animals, but there are even more lesser-known monikers. "Look at that little squeaker" may not be the most perfect thing to coo at a baby pigeon, but it's accurate. Here are 10 more of the offbeat and uncommon references for baby animals.

1. Baby skunk: kit

Thinkstock

Kits bear physical signs of what their fur patterns will look like when they're full-grown adults. They have markings on their naked skin that will later be replaced by fur. It's like a peek into the future. And yes, baby skunks have the ability to spray from birth, but their chemical defense mechanism isn't as strong.

2. Baby turkey: Poult

Thinkstock

After hatching, baby turkeys take shelter under their mom's wings. If they get separated, they let out a panic call. Multiple poults actually travel in a single-file line.

3. Baby guanaco: chulengo

Thinkstock

Chulengos come from another barely-known animal: the guanaco, a South American-native animal from the camelid family. Even though they're related to camels, they don't have humps on their backs.

4. Baby rat: Pinkie

Thinkstock

Technically, a "pinkie" is a baby rat that is going to be used as food, but it's a cute name. The name is frequently used by snake owners.

5. Baby Peafowl (more commonly known in the male form as a peacock): Peachick

Thinkstock

Raised in captivity for more than 2000 years, the U.S. has mostly blue (or Indian) peafowls. Peafowl is the all-encompasing term for what is generally called a peacock. A peacock refers to a male peafowl and a peahen refers to a female. A peafowl is only a peachick when it is younger than one year old.

6. Baby oyster: spat

Courtesy of Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources

Way before it's possible to grow a pearl, a spat must grow into an oyster. Usually in the spring or the fall, adult pearl oysters will spawn into rich, nutrient loaded waters, and the oyster's sperm will fertilize the eggs. It takes about one or two months for a spat to grow to a size visible to the naked eye.

7. Baby mosquito: nymph, wriggler, tumbler

Courtesy of iamtonyang

A baby mosquito's name isn't related to Tumblr, the popular blogging website. Little tumblers (sometimes called wrigglers or nymphs) have occupied Earth for more than 210 million years, but their life expectancies are extremely low. Male mosquitoes live for less than a week and females can live up to a few months under ideal conditions.

8. Baby frog: Polliwog, tadpole, froglet

Thinkstock

There are three names for baby frogs, depending on which segment of the life cycle they're in. After 21 days of being an embryo, a baby frog is called a tadpole (but really is called a polliwog) and at this point, has a long tail and lives in the water. It actually becomes a tadpole when it sprouts legs. As a froglet, the tadpole has almost matured into a full-grown adult that breathes with lungs, but still has a bit of a tail.

9. Baby eel: Elver

Courtesy of TakakoUno

The value of elvers has skyrocketed in recent years as the demand for them has spiked in Asia. In fact, in February 2013, out of 5000 applicants in Maine's elver lottery, only four fishermen were given licenses to use hand-dip nets in the state's elver fishery. 

10. Baby pigeon: Squab, squeaker

Thinkstock

Parent pigeons typically hide their young for a month after hatching, ensuring that they will be able to survive. As a result, it's very rare to see a squab (or squeaker) because they're almost fully grown by the time parents let them spread their wings.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins
iStock
iStock

To celebrate World Penguin Day (which is today, April 25), here are a few fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds.

1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.

2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.

emperor penguin
iStock

3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.

Gentoo Penguin
iStock

4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.

penguins swimming in the ocean
iStock

5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

emperor penguins
iStock

6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.

penguins swimming in the ocean
iStock

7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.

molting penguin
iStock

8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to a thousand birds.

king penguins
iStock

9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.

chinstrap penguins
iStock

10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.

maegellic penguin nesting
iStock

11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.

penguin eggs
iStock

12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.

emperor penguins
iStock

13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

Penguins nest
iStock

14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.

penguin chicks
iStock

15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.

16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")

17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.

19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.

20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Lists
6 Myths About Animals, Debunked
iStock
iStock

It’s easy to think we understand animals: They’re present in every part of our culture, from the movies we watch to the clichés we use. But the way a species functions in the wild is often worlds apart from a stereotype or cartoon. This gulf between misconceptions and reality is the theme of Lucy Cooke’s new book, The Truth About Animals.

"We have a habit of viewing the animal kingdom through the prism of our own existence, and that trips us up and obscures the truth,” Cooke, a zoologist and founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, tells Mental Floss. “I think it's time we rebrand the animal kingdom according to facts and not sentimentality.”

As Cooke examines in her book, the real world is one in which pandas are virile lovers and sloths are master survivalists. These are just a few of the myths that were debunked in The Truth About Animals.

1. PANDAS HAVE LOW SEX DRIVES.

Pandas have long been blamed for their own precarious position in the animal kingdom. The species is in danger, some people claim, because pandas are reluctant to or just plain bad at copulating. If only they would get off their furry behinds and get it on, there would be more of them.

In The Truth About Animals, Cooke debunks this modern myth. Pandas have been living in the wild for 18 million years—long before humans swooped in to act as their savior—and that wouldn’t be the case without healthy sex habits. It’s true that pandas are difficult to breed in captivity, and the several failed attempts of zoos to produce a baby panda throughout the 20th century is likely what led to this stereotype. But the bears are much more responsive to members of the opposite sex in the wild. The female chooses who she mates with, moaning from high in a bamboo tree while several males on the ground compete for her attention. Once the bears have paired off, they can have sex over 40 times in one afternoon.

2. SLOTHS ARE LAZY.

Cooke was inspired to write her book by sloths, which she describes to Mental Floss as “highly successful, highly evolved” creatures. Not everyone agrees: More than perhaps any other animal, sloths have become synonymous with laziness and sluggishness, and today they’re held up as an example of evolutionary failure.

The reality is that sloths are much more impressive than their appearance suggests. They’ve been around since 64 million years ago—earlier than wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers—and they have their slow and steady nature to thank for their success. Sloths have a remarkably slow digestive system and a low-calorie diet, so they expend as little energy as possible, not out of laziness, but out of survival instinct. A sloth is awake for more than half the day, and when necessary it can scramble up a tree at speeds approaching 1 mph. It spends most of its day in a still, seemingly trancelike state, but it isn’t wasting its potential: It’s conserving energy so it can maintain its dominant spot in the evolutionary tree.

3. PENGUINS ARE LOYAL LOVERS.

Emperor penguins, the most famous of the bird group, are known for splitting parenting duties between mated pairs, with the father incubating the egg while the mother gathers food for her family. This has led some to praise penguins as the reflection of ideal, moral family dynamics in the animal kingdom, but these people should probably find a different analog. Though the parents of any given chick may raise their offspring together, penguins aren’t monogamous: 85 percent of emperor penguins find a new partner from one breeding season to the next. Penguins are also some of the only animals known to exchange goods for sex. Adélie penguins need rocks to build up their nests during warmer months when meltwater threatens their eggs. With no parenting duties to distract them, bachelor penguins end up collecting more stones than they need, so some females will sometimes trade a one-off sex session for one of their pebbles.

4. VULTURES STALK DYING PREY.

Watch enough survival movies and you’re bound to see a shot of a hungry vulture trailing behind the starving protagonist, waiting for them to lie down and die. The myth that vultures stalk their prey while it’s still alive and have the power to predict death is a persistent one, but that doesn’t make it accurate. The scavengers have no interest in living animals and will only seek out meat from dead and decaying corpses. Rather than reaper-like premonitions of mortality, turkey vultures and greater and lesser yellow-headed vultures use their noses to locate their meals. They join kiwis and kakapos on the small list of birds with highly-developed olfactory glands. Without a strong sense of smell, other New World vultures and all Old World vultures primarily rely on sight to find food. Some New World vultures like black vultures have adopted a different strategy: They'll follow turkey vultures to their prey, taking advantage of their sensitive noses.

5. ALL BATS ARE RABID BLOOD-SUCKERS.

Bats may be the animals most closely associated with the horror genre. They crave blood, so the myth goes, and though a bat latched onto your neck won’t be able to suck you dry, it will likely infect you with a nasty case of rabies.

According to Cooke, there are many problems with the statement above. Bats are poor stand-ins for their fictional vampire counterparts; only three species of bats drink blood—the common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat, and the white-winged vampire bat—while most prefer fruit or insects. After climbing onto its prey, the vampire bat locates where the blood is flowing with the heat sensor on its nose, and then, using its sharp front teeth like shears, it cuts away any hair that might be blocking the skin. Rather than biting down and sucking like Dracula, the bat creates a small incision and laps up blood from the open wound. They can recognize an individual animal's breathing patterns and return to feed on it the following night, taking advantage of the reliable blood source.

Bats are rarely rabid, with just .05 percent of them carrying the disease—less than dogs or raccoons. The image of a bat getting tangled in your hair also has no basis in reality: Their sophisticated echolocation system signals them to turn long before they have a chance to collide with your head.

6. FEMALE HYENAS HAVE PENISES.

Hyena genitalia has been baffling scientists for centuries. Member of both sexes appear to have a penis, while in females there’s no external vagina to be found. Scientists originally thought that hyenas must be hermaphrodites, but the true explanation is even more unusual. Though it’s often referred to as a pseudo-penis, female hyena genitalia doesn’t produce sperm, technically making it a nearly 8-inch-long clitoris. This appendage is also saddled with all the same duties as a conventional female organ, including giving birth to hyena pups.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios