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7 Animals With Grand Mythological Names

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Identifying a new genus or species is a pretty big deal. Like proud parents, scientists often give their discoveries the biggest, most impressive names they can think of.


This furry sea worm was named for the Greek goddess of beauty and love by none other than Carl Linnaeus himself. Was the name a joke? Sort of—but not the one you’d think. By invoking Aphrodite, Linnaeus was actually commenting on the fact that a sea mouse at rest bears some resemblance to a lady’s genitals. Historians have noted that during Linnaeus’s time, “mouse” was also slang for “vagina.” 


The mighty serpent Ouroboros is a classical symbol of infinity: holding its tail in its mouth, it forms a perfect circle with no beginning and no end. The armadillo lizard is somewhat less dignified. The little South African reptiles are covered in plates of spiny armor, and when threatened they bite their own tails and curl up, leaving potential predators with a ball of spikes. It’s an effective strategy. It’s also really, really cute.


In early 2015, researchers reported that they had named a newly discovered species of millipede after the Egyptian god Anubis. The millipede, they said, was shaped like the jackal god’s head. Well, part of the millipede, anyway: From certain angles, you can just make out a jackal’s head in the shape of the male millipede’s gonopod telopodite, or sex organ.


It’s less than a foot long, but the Thor’s hero shrew is tough. Its power comes from its super-strong, interlocking spine, which lets the animal plunge into crevices of rock in search of worms. The gray-brown rodent is indeed a hero in its native Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the Mangbetu people evoke its invincibility by wearing portions of the animal as a talisman against weapons. The name “Thor” is actually a two-fer; the shrew was named for both the mighty Norse god and Thorvald “Thor” Holmes, Jr., a collections manager at the Humboldt State University Vertebrate Museum.


The devil frog is no longer with us, and that may be a good thing. This enormous prehistoric frog—possibly the largest frog that has ever lived—had a taste for meat, a predilection for ambushing its prey, and a big, big mouth. The scientists who discovered fossil evidence of the frog named it Beezelbufo ampinga, or “armored frog from hell.”


There is a deity for everything. Cloacina was the Roman goddess of the sewers, particularly the Cloaca Maxima, or "Great Drain." She is rarely invoked these days, but her memory survives deep inside a kangaroo. There is an entire genus of nematodes that lives exclusively in the stomachs of kangaroos and wallabies, and each one bears the goddess’s name.


It’s extremely rare to find an intact dinosaur skeleton—most fossils that we have today were discovered in bits and pieces. Such is the case of the sacisaurus, a plant-eating dinosaur found in southern Brazil. The fossil was missing one leg, and so the research team named it for Saci, a one-legged prankster from Brazilian folklore. By all accounts, Saci is quite a nuisance; he steals children’s toys, sours milk, annoys dogs, and keeps popcorn from popping. There’s been no word yet as to whether the dinosaur did the same thing.




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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

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Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]


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