Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Talk Nerdy to Me

Being The Nature Geek, there's a lot of nature subjects that I love to talk and write about. But there are some cases where just a single word deserves its own special mention. Whether they're an obscure term for something, highly technical, or just plain fun to say, these words are some of my all-time favorites.

Crepuscular (Kra-pus-q-lar)
This one always makes me think of a medical term for a cut or pimple that has become infected. "Eeew, that thing has gone crepuscular!" But far from being disgusting, crepuscular refers to an animal that is mainly active at sunrise and sunset. Deer, armadillos, and fireflies are all crepuscular animals.

Rhamphotheca (Ram-po-thee-ka)
Being the bird nerd that I am, of course I am going to throw in an ornithology term here. The rhamphotheca is the keratin sheath that covers the bone part of a bird's beak. It gives the beak its color and can add some extra shape as well, such as the hook on an eagle's beak, or the serrated edges on the beak of a merganser.  

Ootheca (Oo-thee-ka)
Ootheca, what an awesome term for an insect egg case! An ootheca is a special kind of insect egg, in which a group of eggs is encased by a layer of protein, which can sometimes be foamy, as in the praying mantis eggs in the photo on the left. I first learned of the term ootheca when working with Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Aren't you glad I didn't post a photo of cockroach laying a big ol' ootheca? I figure after last week's creepy post I'd be nice and give you all a break.

Some of my favorite geek terms aren't actually vocabulary, but are scientific names. Here are the two scientific names that I love to say over and over.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Arc-to-staff-a-lus uva-ur-see)
The only thing just as fun as this plant's scientific name is its common name, kinnikinnick! (That one is pronounced "kin-nick-a-nick") Kinnikinnick, also called bearberry, is a woody groundcover plant found around the world in northern areas and in high altitudes in warmer regions. With its evergreen leaves and red berries, I might give it another fun name and call it "mountain mini holly," even though it has no relation, or connection to Christmas, or really even a resemblance, to holly.
Oncorhynchus mykiss (On-ko-rine-kiss my-kiss)
An appropriate name for a fish so pretty you just wanna kiss it! Oncorhynchus mykiss is the scientific name for the rainbow trout, found in streams and river across the United States. This smooch-tacular latin name refers to the fish's hook snout (Oncorhynchus) and its Kamchatkan name (Mykiss). 

There are certainly some fun words in science out there. When you learn them not only do you have something new and fun to pronounce in your vocabulary, but you also up your geek cred! Today I'm going to end with a Google challenge. A bunch of my geeky friends have submitted some of their favorite words to share with you. I challenge you to find out what they mean...you just might add a favorite word or two to your own repertoire! 

Nethergeek: Somnambulism
Engineering Geek: Tuberculated
Painter Geek: Bioluminescence
Pigeon Geek: Synanthrope

Carcass Geek: Kleptoparasitism
Ram Geek: Nutlets
Bio1 Geek: Rhinorhea
Weasel Geek: Thigmotactic
Squirrel Geek: Marcescent

SCUBA Geek: Chemotaxis
Rescue Geek: Ophiophagus
Moo Geek: Coprophagy (you can look that one up here!)
Grackle Geek: Rictal bristles

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