This article has been re-posted from the Grant Museum of Zoology blog, with permission of the author Jack Ashby.
With generic terms like mankind and Homo sapiens (“wise man”), people of all genders are well aware that it is the masculine that has dominated the vocabulary of humanity. Not so in the animal kingdom.
Across UCL Culture we are celebrating the centenary of some women first getting the vote in the UK in a number of different ways. In the run up to International Women’s Day, here on the blog our Specimens of the Week will be exploring themes like women in natural history, female specimens, and – in this case – the language of natural history. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…
***The Taxidermy Koala***
I find it interesting to think about animals that are named after features that only one sex has. How would you feel if your species was defined by a characteristic that you yourself didn’t possess?* My own passion is the mammals of Australia. Unlike many other groups (for example there are entire groups of insects that can only be identified by studying male genitalia), for those animals which are named for sex-specific features, Australian mammals are almost** universally named after things that only appear in females.