10 Say What? Animal Names
Published on October 03, 2012
Some critters have all the luck and get nice, respectable names, such as horse and tiger and bear.
But other less fortunate species — like these 10 animals — are just lucky that they don't understand English, considering the odd (and even insulting) ways in which we refer to them.
"Guenon" means "fright" in French, which is a reference to this monkey's grimaced expression when he's aroused. And the "moustached" bit relates to the band of white fur that grows beneath the primate's nose.
These birds would probably be pleased that part of their name pays homage to their distinctive blue feet, which they proudly display during an hours-long mating dance. But the rest of the moniker is less of a compliment: It comes from a Spanish insult that refers to the blue-footed booby's awkwardness — and the fact that the bird is foolishly easy to catch.
Golden-Rumped Elephant Shrew
When they were first discovered, these animals were classified as a type of shrew, and the "elephant" part of the name referred to their long, flexible snouts. But scientists later concluded that they're not related to shrews — and genetic studies have shown that the one-pound mammals are actually distantly related to elephants!
Confused Flour Beetle
These beetles live on grain products, such as flour, and can multiply rapidly in your pantry. But don't assume that they're easy to get rid of because they're bewildered — the name comes from the fact that they're readily mistaken for the related red flour beetle.
Also called the common musk turtle, this small amphibian, found in the eastern U.S., is actually cute. But don't get on his bad side — when threatened, stinkpots will bite and exude a stinky fluid.
This isn't a rodent whom you'd want to pop into your pocket — some species can weigh up to two pounds. The name actually comes from the fur-lined pouches in the gopher's large cheeks, which are used to store food.
It takes some imagination to compare this bird's mouth to that of a frog. In reality, the tawny frogmouth's feathers have the mottled look of tree bark — and the bird actually disguises himself by pointing his head up and sitting motionless, so that he resembles a stump of wood.
Cookie Cutter Shark
This small shark may have a charming name, but the story behind the moniker is rather nasty. The shark's razor-sharp teeth turn in a circle in order to cut a chunk of flesh out of prey — and it looks as if the victim has been attacked with a cookie cutter!
Pink Fairy Armadillo
This rare creature is the smallest armadillo — and perhaps the oddest, thanks to a shell that appears to be barely attached to the animal's body. And although this armadillo is indeed a pale pink color, there's nothing fairylike about his nocturnal, bug-eating, burrowing lifestyle.
"Star-nosed" sounds like the makings of a playful cartoon character, but this small mammal would be more at home in a horror story. The 22 pink, fleshy appendages that surround his snout are some of the most sensitive touch organs in the animal kingdom. And they serve an equally gross purpose: The mole uses them to muck around in the mud in the dark for worms.
For the interesting stories behind even more curiously named critters, check out our 8 Surprisingly Misnamed Animals slideshow.