Ondatra zibethicus

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IMG_3459Muskrat_600.JPG

Ondatra zibethicus – muskrat, Elmer’s Two-Mile Creek, Boulder, Colorado. Once I saw a pair of muskrats there, but I think they were lost in the recent flooding.

11 Comments

Muskrats don’t really “pair,” do they? Other than briefly, I mean.

I always kind of liked the little things, even if they pretty much just paddle around and eat all day.

Glen Davidson

paddle around and eat all day.

Well ok, dusk and night mostly. When I see them, it’s day.

Glen Davidson

Were their names Susie and Sam?

Captain and Tennille?

Why isn’t it “zibethica”? That, at least, is what it was when I learned it, but I see that “zibethicus” is prevalent on the web. I can’t find the original description, just a claim that though its derivation is obscure, “Ondatra” is a male noun.

John Harshman said:

Why isn’t it “zibethica”? That, at least, is what it was when I learned it, but I see that “zibethicus” is prevalent on the web. I can’t find the original description, just a claim that though its derivation is obscure, “Ondatra” is a male noun.

Sometimes, the describers remember to harmonize the genders of the generic and specific names, other times, the describers forget to do so, and the proofreaders/reviewers don’t notice/don’t care.

It’s a sad fact of (taxonomic) life.

John Harshman said:

I can’t find the original description, just a claim that though its derivation is obscure, “Ondatra” is a male noun.

It’s pretty complicated. L’ondatra was assigned to the masculine gender in Canadian French (thus, e.g. in Buffon’s Histoire naturelle, 1799). It was probably borrowed from the now-extinct Huron (Wendat) language. From what I know of Huron grammar, the language had grammatical gender, but all animal names were neuter there.

Piotr Gąsiorowski said: L’ondatra was assigned to the masculine gender in Canadian French (thus, e.g. in Buffon’s Histoire naturelle, 1799).

Really? Is Buffon 1799 in fact the original description of the genus? There’s a web reference that will tell you that sort of thing for birds (Zoonomen). Is there one for mammals?

John Harshman said:

Really? Is Buffon 1799 in fact the original description of the genus? There’s a web reference that will tell you that sort of thing for birds (Zoonomen). Is there one for mammals?

I only quoted Buffon as an example of the early use of the word ondatra in French as a masculine. That’s the reason why the masculine has come to be regarded as its “correct” gender, though French was only an intermediary between Huron and Neo-Latin. Ondatra as the Latin name of the genus seems to have been introduced by Link in 1795, but without a proper description (nom. nud.). Early authors (including Tiedemann 1808, who renamed Linnaeus’s Castor zibethicus as Ondatra americana often treated Ondatra as formally feminine in Latin.

P.S. Some references can be found here: http://www.departments.bucknell.edu[…]?id=13000329

Should I collect a couple buckets of flood mud and spread it on my garden? Not the sandy stuff near the main channel, but the finer goop that collects in the flood backwaters and in houses. Do those flood deposits contain nutrients? Or toxic runoff from the neighborhoods? The muck is real dark-colored and smooth, kind of like chocolate mousse.

Along Four-mile Creek there was a field that is now covered in about 6 inches of fine mud. You can see an intact soil profile (plants, in-situ roots, etc.) and flood deposits on top of that. The prairie soil was there in place for decades before it got covered with mud. See, flood geology really is wrong. The successive layers did not form all at once.

And to answer Ken Ham: Yes, I was there!

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on September 23, 2013 12:00 PM.

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