Can’t resist that kitten video? Don’t even try.
A 2012 study showed that watching cute animals boosts our productivity. (Related: When We See Something Cute, Why Do We Want to Squeeze It?)
Sometimes animals’ names are as cute as they are, so this week we’re looking names of animal young. After all, even if you jump at the sight of Halloween spiders, you might still smile at spiderlings.
Such names aren’t scientific, like species-specific Latin names used to categorize animals, says Marc Devokaitis of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Common baby bird designations usually “come from hunting, domestication, or falconry,” he says.
Ornithologists often call young birds chicks, nestlings or fledglings, but “swans, geese and ducks, have a specific word,” he says—cygnets, goslings and ducklings, respectively.
“Emphasis on the first syllable,” notes Rebecca Bearman, assistant curator of Birds and Program Animals at the Zoo Atlanta says by email.
Mammals and marsupials
That is the etymology of the verb—the noun for the creature comes from a different Middle English word, meaning “young of an animal.”
Young marsupials from koalas to kangaroos are joeys, and our ape and monkey kin—like us—are called infants when they’re young. (Related: Koala and Joey, Young Marsupials Stay Close to Mom)
We wouldn’t say this in front of its dad, but a baby elephant seal is a weaner.
There are 20,000 species of bees worldwide, and the smallest in North America is the tiny Perdita minima, .08 inches long.
People think they’re baby bees, but they’re not, says Ed Spevak, curator of invertebrates at the St. Louis Zoo.
“If you see a bee, it’s an adult,” Spevak says.
“Being a baby is not an aspect of size,” he says—it’s related to age, and bees develop into adulthood while in the hive. Until then, they’re called larvae, like baby butterflies, aka caterpillars, which also emerge in adulthood.
Little eels are called elvers and young jellyfish go from larvae to polyp to ephyra. But some marine animals have an arguably scary name—at least for them.
“Why are baby fish called fry?” Moore wonders. “That's not a great word for the future of those fish, is it?”
Lucky for them, it’s an altogether different kettle of fish.
At one time it was used to refer “to young of all kinds, including humans and bees as well as fishes.”
Indeed, “Young fry of treachery,” is an insult hurled at a character in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
And Shakespeare? He was no small fry.