Funny Animal Names

The following is an article from Uncle John's OLD FAITHFUL 30th Anniversary edition.

What’s in a name? Not much, if you believe Shakespeare. On the other hand, if someone’s name makes you laugh, that’s a good thing. Example: we knew a woman named Grace Moak. Said fast, it sounds like “gray smoke.” Funny, right? And memorable. So here are three funny names for three funny critters that you’ll never forget.


What It Is: A small (just 9–16 inches long) and spectacularly patterned octopus found in the western Pacific Ocean.

(Image credit: Jenny Huang)

Name Origin: In the 1980s, improvements in underwater photography and videography plus a surge in the popularity of dive resorts in the western Pacific (the waters around northern Australia, the Philippines, and Vanuatu) resulted in many images of previously unknown sea creatures. One of those creatures was this octopus species, which someone (presumably a German speaker) gave the nickname “wunderpus,” after the German word wünder, meaning “marvel” or “wonder.” In 2006, when scientists confirmed that it was indeed a new species, they used its nickname as part of the scientific name, adding “photogenicus,” because the wunderpus wasn’t just a marvel- it was also very photogenic.


What It Is: A family of fish found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Arctic oceans.

Name Origin: Lumpsuckers (or lumpfish) get the “lump” part of their name because of their overall lumpy appearance: they have fat, round, almost spherical bodies, with small fins and bulgy eyes. As an added feature, they have a variety of bumps, pimples, spines, and splotches on those lumpy bodies. They come in a variety of sizes: some species grow up to about 24 inches long; others grow to just 1 inch long (one science magazine described the small ones as “swollen eyeballs with eyeballs.”) And they didn’t get the “sucker” part of their name from their mouths. As with numerous species of sucker fish, it’s much weirder than that. The lumpsucker’s pelvic fins -the pair of fins found on the belly of finned fishes- have evolved into disk-shaped suction devices that allow these fish to temporarily anchor themselves to rocks, shells, and other surfaces on the ocean floor. You can even stick one to your finger -and it will hang there upside down (which helps lumpsuckers when they find themselves in turbulent waters- because their fat bodies and tiny fins make them terrible swimmers).


What It Is: A semiaquatic turtle species found around freshwater systems in the American South, from Florida to North Carolina, and west to eastern Texas. Its shell is a tan to olive-green and around 6– 9 inches long, with a distinctive pear shape (the wider part of the shell is at the turtle’s tail end). The species is especially known for its long, snakelike neck.

Name Origin: The scientific name of the species is Deirochelys reticularia. So why is it called a “chicken turtle”? Because it tastes like chicken. Really. Turtle meat, most often eaten as part of turtle soup, was a regular part of the American diet going back to colonial days, and remained popular in the South well into the 20th century. And the turtle of choice for turtle eaters: the chicken turtle, presumably because of its mild flavor. Exactly when the chicken turtle acquired its name is unknown, but we found a recipe for it in a cookbook by influential American writer Sarah J. Hale, published in 1857.

Bonus Fact: Turtle hunting is strongly regulated in the United States today, and is illegal in some states. But turtle soup -made from snapping turtles- is still served in some American restaurants, including several creole restaurants in New Orleans. And you can order cans of snapping turtle soup online.


The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's OLD FAITHFUL 30th Anniversary edition. Every year for the past three decades, Uncle John and his team of tireless researchers have delivered an epic tome packed with thousands of fascinating factoids. And now this extra-special 30th anniversary edition has everything you've come to expect from the BRI, and more! It's stuffed with 512 pages of all-new articles sure to please everyone.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

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