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12 Animal Adjectives to Bolster Your Vocabulary

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In eighth grade when I read that Julius Caesar had an aquiline nose, I mistakenly thought it had something to do with water. But aquiline is from Latin aquila, meaning eagle, not aqua, water. He had a curved, beaklike nose, not a runny one.

You know some other animal adjectives ending in -ine: feline (catlike), canine (doggy) and bovine (cow like). How many more are there? A herd, a flock, a whole bunch. Here’s a dozen.

1. ANGUINE

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Joseph Sheridan Le Faun managed to use the erudite term in The Tenants of Malory. "Her beautiful eyebrows wore that anguine curve, which is the only approach to a scowl which painters accord to angels." The word means snakelike, from Latin anguis, snake.

2. BUTEONINE

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Here’s a perfect description of a hostile-take-over artist: buteonine, resembling a buzzard (from Latin būteōn-em, hawk or buzzard).

3. DELPHINE

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Delphine is an obsolete adjective referring to the dolphin (from Old French dauphin, from Provençal dalfin, from Latin delphinus, from Greek delphin).

4. DIDELPHINE

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Didelphine does not refer to a double dolphin, but a double uterus. It’s a variant of didelphian (from modern Latin Didelphia, from Greek di-, twice + delphos, womb) and refers to a subclass of marsupials including opossums.

5. HIPPOCAMPINE

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If your hippocampi are functioning properly, you may remember that hippocampus refers to the elongated ridges on the floor of each lateral ventricle of the brain that play a central role in memory. The hippocampi are named for their resemblance to seahorses (from late Latin, from Greek hippokampos, from hippos ‘horse’ + kampos ‘sea monster’).

Hippocampus, or seahorse, originally referred to mythological creatures having two forefeet, and a body ending in the tail of a dolphin or fish, represented as drawing the carriage of Neptune. Now both terms refer to a genus of small fishes you sometimes see in aquariums. Oh, and “hippocampine” is a rarely used adjective relating to seahorses.

6. LIMACINE

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If you want to call someone sluggish (or worse, slimy) in a more elegant fashion, you could call them limacine, meaning "of, relating to, or resembling a slug; akin to līmus, slime."

7. MACROPODINE

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If you have a smattering of Latin or Greek, you can guess, correctly, that the stem “macropod-“ means "big foot," but macropodine refers not to Sasquatch, but to kangaroos or wallabies.

8. MEPHITINE

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If you’d like to say, ever so discreetly, that something stinks, you could say it’s mephitine, or skunk-like. The word seems to have been coined from mephitis (from classical Latin mefītis, mephītis an exhalation of sulfurated water or gas, also personified, as the name of the goddess of exhalations), but it doesn’t appear in standard dictionaries or even in Google Books.

9. MURINE

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This adjective has nothing to do with eye drops. It means relating to a mouse or mice (from Latin murinus, from mus, mur- "mouse.")

10. MUSTELINE

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If people are sneaky, you might describe them as musteline, or weasely. The word originates from classical Latin mustēlīnus, of or belonging to a weasel, and from mustēla (also mustella) weasel, of uncertain origin (perhaps related to mūs, mouse).

11. PHOCINE

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A graceful swimmer might be called phocine, which means resembling a seal, from the genus name phoca, from classical Latin phōca, or seal.

12. PICINE

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Picine, meaning like a woodpecker (from the genus name assigned by Linnaeus, from classical Latin pīcus, woodpecker) is not to be confused with piscine, of or relating to fishes.

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Animals
Australian Charity Releases Album of Cat-Themed Ballads to Promote Feline Welfare
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An Australian animal charity is helping save the nation’s kitties one torch song at a time, releasing a feline-focused musical album that educates pet owners about how to properly care for their cats.

Around 35,000 cats end up in pounds, shelters, and rescue programs every year in the Australian state of New South Wales, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Microchipping and fixing cats, along with keeping closer tabs on them, could help reduce this number. To get this message out, the RSPCA’s New South Wales chapter created Cat Ballads: Music To Improve The Lives Of Cats.

The five-track recording is campy and fur-filled, with titles like "Desex Me Before I Do Something Crazy" and "Meow Meow." But songs like “I Need You” might tug the heartstrings of ailurophiles with lyrics like “I guess that’s goodbye then/but you’ve done this before/the window's wide open/and so’s the back door/you might think I’m independent/but you’d be wrong.” There's also a special version of the song that's specifically designed for cats’ ears, featuring purring, bird tweets, and other feline-friendly noises.

Together, the tunes remind us how vulnerable our kitties really are, and provide a timely reminder for cat owners to be responsible parents to their furry friends.

“The Cat Ballads campaign coincides with kitten season, which is when our shelters receive a significantly higher number of unwanted kittens as the seasons change,” Dr. Jade Norris, a veterinary scientist with the RSPCA, tells Mental Floss. “Desexing cats is a critical strategy to reduce unwanted kittens.”

Listen to a song from Cat Ballads below, and visit the project’s website for the full rundown.

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Animals
Scientists Discover 'Octlantis,' a Bustling Octopus City
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Octopuses are insanely talented: They’ve been observed building forts, playing games, and even walking on dry land. But one area where the cephalopods come up short is in the social department. At least that’s what marine biologists used to believe. Now a newly discovered underwater community, dubbed Octlantis, is prompting scientists to call their characterization of octopuses as loners into question.

As Quartz reports, the so-called octopus city is located in Jervis Bay off Australia’s east coast. The patch of seafloor is populated by as many as 15 gloomy octopuses, a.k.a. common Sydney octopuses (octopus tetricus). Previous observations of the creatures led scientists to think they were strictly solitary, not counting their yearly mating rituals. But in Octlantis, octopuses communicate by changing colors, evict each other from dens, and live side by side. In addition to interacting with their neighbors, the gloomy octopuses have helped build the infrastructure of the city itself. On top of the rock formation they call home, they’ve stored mounds of clam and scallop shells and shaped them into shelters.

There is one other known gloomy octopus community similar to this one, and it may help scientists understand how and why they form. The original site, called Octopolis, was discovered in the same bay in 2009. Unlike Octlantis, Octopolis was centered around a manmade object that had sunk to the seabed and provided dens for up to 16 octopuses at a time. The researchers studying it had assumed it was a freak occurrence. But this new city, built around a natural habitat, shows that gloomy octopuses in the area may be evolving to be more social.

If that's the case, it's unclear why such octo-cities are so uncommon. "Relative to the more typical solitary life, the costs and benefits of living in aggregations and investing in interactions remain to be documented," the researchers who discovered the group wrote in a paper published in Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology [PDF].

It’s also possible that for the first time in history humans have the resources to see octopus villages that perhaps have always been bustling beneath the sea surface.

[h/t Quartz]

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