Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Darwin's Beetle, Lost and Found

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Charles Darwin had kind of a thing for beetles, and would go to great lengths to collect and study them. In 1846, he wrote to a friend about one of the entomological adventures he had looking for ground beetles: 

Under a piece of bark I found two Carabi & caught one in each hand, when lo and behold I saw a sacred Panagæus crux major; I could not bear to give up either of my Carabi, & to lose Panagæus was out of the question, so that in despair I gently seized one of the carabi between my teeth, when to my unspeakable disgust & pain the little inconsiderate beast squirted his acid down my throat & I lost both Carabi & Panagæus! 

During his famous voyage on the Beagle in the 1830s, Darwin collected fossils and living animals for his research wherever he could, including plenty of beetles. Among them was a type of rove beetle—a member of Staphylinidae, the largest beetle family—that was unknown to science.  

Unfortunately, before Darwin—who apparently could not bear to lose a beetle—or any other biologist could formally describe the new beetle and name it, the specimen was misplaced somewhere in the collections of the Natural History Museum in London. 

Skip ahead almost 200 years, to the present day. Stylianos Chatzimanolis, an entomologist at the University of Tennessee, has been working over the last few years to update the family tree of a sub-group of rove beetles. He’s spent many hours in his lab examining specimens borrowed from all over the world and working on manuscripts (while listening to David Sedaris audiobooks). One day, he noticed that one of the beetles had notched antennae, a trait that’s not common among rove beetles. Intrigued, he looked into it a little more and discovered that the strange beetle was on loan from the Natural History Museum, and was the lost beetle collected by Darwin in Argentina.

The beetle was recorded as specimen number 708 by Darwin in his notes, and then stored at the museum among unsorted Staphylinidae specimens, presumably because no one knew what it was or where it belonged. Eventually one of the curators noticed it while sorting these materials and, taking a best guess, moved it to storage with the genus Trigonopselaphus, to which it bore a resemblance. This happened to be the same genus that Chatzimanolis was researching, and when the museum sent over its Trigonopselaphus collections, specimen 708 made a second trip over the Atlantic, this time to be rediscovered instead of lost. 

After examining the beetle more closely, Chatzimanolis decided that it wasn’t a member of Trigonopselaphus, but a new genus. He dubbed the group Darwinilus in honor of Darwin, and named specimen 708’s species D. sedarisi as a nod to the writer who entertained him while he worked. He published his description of the beetle on Darwin’s 205th birthday, February 12, 2014. 

Despite searching in many major museum collections, Chatzimanolis has only been able to find one other specimen of Darwinilus sedarisi, which dates from 1935 or before. Chatzimanolis thinks the lack of specimens may be because the beetles spend most of their time hiding and feeding in the trash piles of ant colonies. Most of the area around the spots where the two beetles were found, though, has since been deforested and turned into farmland, so it's also possible the beetles disappeared for lack of a place to live. “One of course hopes that a newly described species is not already extinct,” says Chatzimanolis.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Dogs

Dogs: They’re cute, they’re cuddly … and they can smell fear!

Today on Scatterbrained, John Green and friends go beyond the floof to reveal some fascinating facts about our canine pals—including the story of one Bloodhound who helped track down 600 criminals during his lifetime. (Move over, McGruff.) They’re also looking at the name origins of some of your favorite dog breeds, going behind the scenes of the Puppy Bowl, and dishing the details on how a breed gets to compete at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

You can watch the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!

Sploot 101: 12 Animal Slang Words Every Pet Parent Should Know

For centuries, dogs were dogs and cats were cats. They did things like bark and drink water and lay down—actions that pet parents didn’t need a translator to understand.

Then the internet arrived. Scroll through the countless Facebook groups and Twitter accounts dedicated to sharing cute animal pictures and you’ll quickly see that dogs don’t have snouts, they have snoots, and cats come in a colorful assortment of shapes and sizes ranging from smol to floof.

Pet meme language has been around long enough to start leaking into everyday conversation. If you're a pet owner (or lover) who doesn’t want to be out of the loop, here are the terms you need to know.


You know your pet is fully relaxed when they’re doing a sploot. Like a split but for the whole body, a sploot occurs when a dog or cat stretches so their bellies are flat on the ground and their back legs are pointing behind them. The amusing pose may be a way for them to take advantage of the cool ground on a hot day, or just to feel a satisfying stretch in their hip flexors. Corgis are famous for the sploot, but any quadruped can do it if they’re flexible enough.


Person holding Marnie the dog.
Emma McIntyre, Getty Images for ASPCA

Unlike most items on this list, the word derp isn’t limited to cats and dogs. It can also be a stand-in for such expressions of stupidity as “duh” or “dur.” In recent years the term has become associated with clumsy, clueless, or silly-looking cats and dogs. A pet with a tongue perpetually hanging out of its mouth, like Marnie or Lil Bub, is textbook derpy.


Cat laying on desk chair.
PoppetCloset, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you’ve ever caught a cat or dog poking the tip of its tongue past its front teeth, you’ve seen a blep in action. Unlike a derpy tongue, a blep is subtle and often gone as quickly as it appears. Animal experts aren’t entirely sure why pets blep, but in cats it may have something to do with the Flehmen response, in which they use their tongues to “smell” the air.


Mlems and bleps, though very closely related, aren’t exactly the same. While blep is a passive state of being, mlem is active. It’s what happens when a pet flicks its tongue in and out of its mouth, whether to slurp up water, taste food, or just lick the air in a derpy fashion. Dogs and cats do it, of course, but reptiles have also been known to mlem.


Very fluffy cat.
J. Sibiga Photography, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Some pets barely have any fur, and others have coats so voluminous that hair appears to make up most of their bodyweight. Dogs and cats in the latter group are known as floofs. Floofy animals will famously leave a wake of fur wherever they sit and can squeeze through tight spaces despite their enormous mass. Samoyeds, Pomeranians, and Persian cats are all prime examples of floofs.


Dog outside barking.

According to some corners of the internet, dogs don’t bark, they bork. Listen carefully next time you’re around a vocal doggo and you won’t be able to unhear it.


Shiba inu smiling up at the camera.

Speaking of doggos: This word isn’t hard to decode. Every dog—regardless of size, floofiness, or derpiness—can be a doggo. If you’re willing to get creative, the word can even be applied to non-dog animals like fennec foxes (special doggos) or seals (water doggos). The usage of doggo saw a spike in 2016 thanks to the internet and by the end of 2017 it was listed as one of Merriam-Webster’s “Words We’re Watching.”


Tiny kitten in grass.

Some pets are so adorably, unbearably tiny that using proper English to describe them just doesn’t cut it. Not every small pet is smol: To earn the label, a cat or dog (or kitten or puppy) must excel in both the tiny and cute departments. A pet that’s truly smol is likely to induce excited squees from everyone around it.


Hands holding a puppy.

Like doggo, pupper is self-explanatory: It can be used in place of the word puppy, but if you want to use it to describe a fully-grown doggo who’s particularly smol and cute, you can probably get away with it.

10. BOOF

We’ve already established that doggos go bork, but that’s not the only sound they make. A low, deep bark—perhaps from a dog that can’t decide if it wants to expend its energy on a full bark—is best described as a boof. Consider a boof a warning bark before the real thing.


Dog noses poking out beneath blanket.

Snoot was already a dictionary-official synonym for nose by the time dog meme culture took the internet by storm. But while snoot is rarely used to describe human faces today, it’s quickly becoming the preferred term for pet snouts. There’s even a wholesome viral challenge dedicated to dogs poking their snoots through their owners' hands.

12. BOOP

Have you ever seen a dog snoot so cute you just had to reach out and tap it? And when you did, was your action accompanied by an involuntary “boop” sound? This urge is so universal that boop is now its own verb. Humans aren’t the only ones who can boop: Search the word on YouTube and treat yourself to hours of dogs, cats, and other animals exchanging the love tap.


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