Tetrapod Zoology

Tet Zoo, the wordle


After a hiatus of several months I attacked Tet Zoo the book during the small hours of this morning (I started while the repeat of Fossil Detectives was on at 1 am… missed the bit with Jeff Liston and Leedsichthys, did anyone else see it?). For no particular reason I created a wordle from the text of the whole book. It’s crap: are all wordles like this? So, apparently, if you want to read a book with exciting words like ‘one’ and ‘new’ and ‘also’, this is the place to go! I like the fact that ‘et’ and ‘al’ loom large, and ‘might’ and ‘known’. Where are all the bloody animal names? I see ‘peccaries’, ‘Eagle’, ‘MIWG.7306’, ‘snakes’ and ‘bird’. I dunno… what was I expecting? At least it wasn’t a waste of my valuable time.

Incidentally, I still need lots of pics for the book. The original list was here, but I still need…


— olms: both white olms and black olms

Mammals (and other synapsids)

— any depiction at all of the controversial Chronoperates paradoxus
— docodonts of any sort
— a manatee or manatees, of any extant species
— an up-to-date Ambulocetus
— Puma Puma concolor
— the Ethiopian mouse Nilopegamys plumbeus
— Velvet rat Colomys goslingi
— Sun bear Helarctos malayanus on its own, not being eaten by a giant snake
— Monito del Monte or Colocolo Dromiciops australis
— Yarkand jerboa Euchoreutes naso
— Rough-legged jerboa Dipus sagitta
— Earwing Otopteryx volitans
— Kha-nyou Laonastes aenigmamus
— the chinchilla rat Cuscomys ashaninka
— Mountain gorilla Gorilla beringei


— Alligator snapping turtle Macroclemys temminckii
— a reconstruction of a Reticulated python Python reticulatus killing and/or eating a Sun bear Helarctos malayanus
— African rock python Python sebae
— African crowned eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus
— Haast’s eagle Hieraaetus moorei
— birds-of-paradise belonging to the genera Paradisaea or Astrapia
— Speckled crake Coturnicops notata
— Cobb’s wren Troglodytes cobbi
— Thorn-tailed rayadito Aphrastura spinicauda
— any member of the warbler genus Cettia
— Flying steamer-duck Tachyeres patachonicus
— Shovel-billed kingfisher Clytoceyx rex
— Wrybill Anarhynchus frontalis


Thanks to all for the birthday wishes! And congrats to Mark Witton, who specifically waited until this day to hand in his PhD thesis.


  1. #1 Mary Blanchard
    September 26, 2008

    I used ‘also’ so much writing my thesis (I subsequently deleted as many as I could) that I now have an unnatural hatred of the word. Having since edited two other thesis it seems I am far from alone in over-using it!

  2. #2 Darren Naish
    September 26, 2008

    I am also.

    (ps – ‘theses’*).

    * There’s a phd comic about this word but I can’t find it.

  3. #3 Laelaps
    September 26, 2008

    When I did early Wordles of the book I’m working on, I was horrified at how large words like “still,” “like,” “however,” and “although,” were. You get much better results if you do individual wordles for each entry/chatper, otherwise all the more mundane terms show up. That’s good, of course, as otherwise you’d just have a list of taxa and anatomical features and it wouldn’t be much fun to read!

    I’ll have a look through my files to see if I have some photos for you to use. I know I have some good cougar shots, at least, and I’m probably going to go to the National Zoo and Bronx Zoo again next month. Let me know if you have any special requests and I will try to make sure I get the shots.

  4. #4 Diego
    September 26, 2008

    I can provide puma, alligator snapping turtle, and manatee pics that you are free to use. Can I e-mail them to you?

  5. #5 Laelaps
    September 26, 2008

    Oh yes, and happy birthday!

  6. #6 Neil
    September 26, 2008

    First of all happy birthday. ANd ill ahve atrawl for the photos. None leap out at the monet – I havean alligator snapping turtle but it pretty awful, and you already havean offer for that anyway…

  7. #7 Dave Godfrey
    September 26, 2008

    Happy Birthday, and congratulations to Mark on finishing the thesis. Good luck to him in the viva.

    I’d be more than happy to draw an Ambulocetus, if you need one, as long as I know what’s wrong with the previous restorations. (Walking With Beasts, etc).

  8. #8 Sordes
    September 26, 2008

    Yes, sometimes it is really hard to avoid repeating specials words. Some time ago I wrote a short-story with the title “Der Herr der Tiefe” = “Lord of the Deep” ( http://www.amazon.de/Herr-Tiefe-KryptoFiction-Markus-B%C3%BChler/dp/394112210X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1222438348&sr=8-1 )which plays mainly on some floats on the sea. It can be really nerving to search for other words. There is a very similar case in another new short-story, which has also a central element which has to be repeated a lot of times, and there are even much lesser possibilities to use other words…

  9. #9 Steve Bodio
    September 26, 2008

    I know of no GOOD images of Haast’s eagle though there are some skeleton photos in The Lost World of the Moa. But I may be ale to find one of the crowned eagle.

    And Happy birthday!

  10. #10 Zach Miller
    September 26, 2008

    Happy birthday (again)! I’m glad you haven’t forgotten about the Tet. Zoo book. In addition to all the categories I said I’d be happy to illustrate before (hope you still have my list), I can also provide an Ambulocetus.

  11. #11 Tilsim
    September 26, 2008

    I hope you’ll be able to include some aïstopods. Because I’d like to know more about them … that’s how selfish I am.

  12. #12 Tilsim
    September 26, 2008

    Grr… that squiggle was supposed to be an i with diaeresis.

  13. #13 Stevo Darkly
    September 26, 2008

    Belated happy birthday!

  14. #14 Alec T
    September 26, 2008

    Happy Birthday Darren!

  15. #15 Sordes
    September 27, 2008

    I wish you a happy birthday too Darren!

  16. #16 William Miller
    September 27, 2008

    On the extinct animals, do you want photos of fossils, or drawn reconstructions? If the latter, I can try one, though it’s likely to be bad…

  17. #17 Graham King
    September 27, 2008

    Happy Birthday Darren!!

    If you were 50 I could wish you a Happy Hemidecimilleniad, as is my wont (pointing out that you’re only 1/20 of the way towards your first thousand years… thus, tending to put age in perspective)… but you’re not, so I won’t.

    You still have that to look forward to.

    Compared to many of the creatures you study, your period of existence is a slim sliver indeed on the uttermost edge of being; so how come you know so much about them already? Obviously you have not been thoroughly wasting your time on earth so far.

    Well done; long may you continue.


    PS in the illustration the dolphin looks cheerful, the ichthyosaur glum, and the elasmosaur either manically elated or manically despairing… delightful all. I hope that these (or similarly characterful depictions) WILL appear on your book’s cover!

  18. #18 David Marjanovi?
    September 27, 2008

    and the elasmosaur either manically elated or manically despairing…

    They really look like that in any case.

  19. #19 Tim Morris
    September 28, 2008

    Wouldnt Carl Buell be a good place to go for an up-t-date Ambulocetus? he did reconstruct it as a crab-eater fairly recently.

  20. #20 Dr. Nick
    September 28, 2008

    Happy birthday, Darren!

    Re: Wordles, yeah, they really ought to normalize the word frequencies against some standard English corpus or something like that.

    I love how “et” is like the fifth most prominent word in the cluster!

  21. #21 Emile
    September 29, 2008

    Happy birthday Darren!

    I had some photos up here, including a rather blurry snapping turtle, if you need them. And I’d be happy to illustrate as well.

  22. #22 William Miller
    September 29, 2008

    I’ll try to draw the python eating the bear.

  23. #23 Sharmut
    February 1, 2009

    Why don’t you just use images from Wikipedia? All that is required to use them is attribution.

  24. #24 Phil Hore
    February 27, 2009

    I have images of haasts eagle mural
    and im sure i have a sunbear photo or two…
    just email me and I’ll send them 2 you

New comments have been disabled.