Meet Jonathan, the 187-Year-Old Tortoise and the World's Oldest Land Animal

David Stanley, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
David Stanley, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When Jonathan the tortoise decides to stretch his neck and limbs out of his shell and enjoy a little sunbathing on the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, it's a sight so peculiar that alarmed passersby will report that the poor creature has died.

That may sound like a rash conclusion, but people have reason to be concerned. At 187 years old, Jonathan is believed to have far exceeded the typical 150-year lifespan of his species to become the world's oldest living land animal.

The title has been recognized by Guinness World Records, which recently profiled Jonathan. With an estimated birth year of 1832, the affable reptile has lived through the terms of 39 U.S. presidents, two world wars, and the invention of the light bulb. He came to Saint Helena around 1882, with his age at the time figured to be around 50 years old. He was intended to be a gift to the governor of the Overseas British Territory at the time, William Grey-Wilson, and has lived on the grounds of the governor's mansion ever since.

Advancing age is not without its consequences. Jonathan is nearly blind from cataracts and appears to have lost his sense of smell. He's cared for by veterinarians who arrange for a nutritious fruit and vegetable diet.

Believed to be a rare Seychelles giant tortoise, Jonathan shares the property with three other shelled friends: David, Emma, and Fred. If he hangs on for a bit longer, he'll likely set the all-time Guinness World Record for a chelonian lifespan currently held by Tu'i Malila, a tortoise who passed at age 188 in 1965.

From all indications, it appears Jonathan has not lost his taste for life's pleasures. According to island residents, he's fond of copulating with Emma and has even been known to enjoy dalliances with Fred. This poses a unique duty for Governor Lisa Phillips, who sometimes has to head outside and put the tortoises back on their feet if they fall off during their sensual encounters.

"That wasn't in the job description when I became governor," Phillips said in 2017.

[h/t Guinness World Records]

Is There An International Standard Governing Scientific Naming Conventions?

iStock/Grafissimo
iStock/Grafissimo

Jelle Zijlstra:

There are lots of different systems of scientific names with different conventions or rules governing them: chemicals, genes, stars, archeological cultures, and so on. But the one I'm familiar with is the naming system for animals.

The modern naming system for animals derives from the works of the 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (Latinized to Carolus Linnaeus). Linnaeus introduced the system of binominal nomenclature, where animals have names composed of two parts, like Homo sapiens. Linnaeus wrote in Latin and most his names were of Latin origin, although a few were derived from Greek, like Rhinoceros for rhinos, or from other languages, like Sus babyrussa for the babirusa (from Malay).

Other people also started using Linnaeus's system, and a system of rules was developed and eventually codified into what is now called the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). In this case, therefore, there is indeed an international standard governing naming conventions. However, it does not put very strict requirements on the derivation of names: they are merely required to be in the Latin alphabet.

In practice a lot of well-known scientific names are derived from Greek. This is especially true for genus names: Tyrannosaurus, Macropus (kangaroos), Drosophila (fruit flies), Caenorhabditis (nematode worms), Peromyscus (deermice), and so on. Species names are more likely to be derived from Latin (e.g., T. rex, C. elegans, P. maniculatus, but Drosophila melanogaster is Greek again).

One interesting pattern I've noticed in mammals is that even when Linnaeus named the first genus in a group by a Latin name, usually most later names for related genera use Greek roots instead. For example, Linnaeus gave the name Mus to mice, and that is still the genus name for the house mouse, but most related genera use compounds of the Greek-derived root -mys (from μῦς), which also means "mouse." Similarly, bats for Linnaeus were Vespertilio, but there are many more compounds of the Greek root -nycteris (νυκτερίς); pigs are Sus, but compounds usually use Greek -choerus (χοῖρος) or -hys/-hyus (ὗς); weasels are Mustela but compounds usually use -gale or -galea (γαλέη); horses are Equus but compounds use -hippus (ἵππος).

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

A Rare Blue Lobster Ended Up in a Cape Cod Restaurant

Richard wood, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Richard wood, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Lobsters have precious few defenses when it comes to being tossed in a vat of boiling water or on a grill and turned into dinner. They have not yet evolved into not being delicious. But sometimes, one lucky lobster can defy the odds and escape their sentence by virtue of a genetic defect that turns them blue.

According to MassLive, one such lobster has been given a reprieve at Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Named "Baby Blue," the crustacean arrived at the restaurant from the Atlantic and was immediately singled out for its distinctive appearance.

Blue lobsters are a statistical abnormality. It's estimated only one in every two million carry the defect that creates an excessive amount of protein that results in the color. A lobsterman named Wayne Nickerson caught one in Cape Cod in 2016. He also reported catching one in 1990. Greg Ward of Rye, New Hampshire caught one near the New Hampshire and Maine border in 2017.

Lobsters can show up in a variety of colors, including orange, yellow, a mixture of orange and black, white, and even take on a two-toned appearance, with the colors split down the middle. Blue is the most common, relatively speaking. A white (albino) specimen happens in only one out of 100 million lobsters. The majority have shells with yellow, blue, and red layers and appear brown until cooked, at which point the proteins in the shell fall off to reveal the red coloring.

It's an unofficial tradition that blue lobsters aren't served up to curious customers. Instead, they're typically donated to local aquariums. Nathan Nickerson, owner Arnold's, said he plans on doing the same.

[h/t MassLive]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER