A shop called "Desman"


It's not everyday that you discover a shop named after a group of fairly obscure amphibious lipotyphlans. While in Spain last year, I was intrigued by this shop...

I think it sold clothes or something, though frankly I don't recall checking. Here's a close-up of the animal featured on the signage...


Desmans are members of Talpidae (the same group that includes the moles), and there are only two extant species: the Russian desman Desmana moschata and Pyrenean desman Galemys pyrenaicus (there are loads of fossil species though, in about ten extinct genera). Both have a long, sensitive proboscis, webbed hindfeet, and a laterally compressed tail. The Russian desman reaches about 40 cm in total length, which is huge given that most talpids are less than 20 cm long. I've never seen one.

And I'd like to say a lot more about them, but that'll do. I'm in the middle of working on two books (plus several other projects) and it's killing me. Will try and keep the blog ticking over with short bits like this one, please bear with me. And I'm acutely aware of the fact that I'm not talking about recent discoveries and hot news: stuff like new dinosaurs, those pink iguanas, killer mice vs Tristan albatrosses, the fossil cheetah Acinonyx kurteni, the historically-extinct yellow-eyed penguin Megadyptes waitaha, and so on. I'll try to remedy this, but other bloggers always beat me to it and then I lose interest. Bastards!

More like this

Phil Budd (of the Southampton Natural History Society) recently gave me a dead mole Talpa europaea, and here it is. It isn't the first mole for my collection: I have another one that I skeletonised long ago. Moles really are amazing. Their forelimb and pectoral anatomy has to be seen to be…
1) This week's Inforgraphic: Job and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. 2) Music reviews containing sentences like: "[The new Flaming Lips record] frequently sounds like Steely Dan as heard from the other end of a machine shop." Which reminds me, I need to go down to the machine shop…
Kids at the candy shop... from the DairyAire launch event this weekend. For a sense of how the photonic Ritalin works, this is what my rocket looks like as an example: For a while, I've wanted to use a funky armored car fisheye lens from Belarus for night rocketry. I tested it at dusk: and at…
Four out of seven PLoS journals published new articles today. Under the fold are those I personallyt found most interesting and/or 'bloggable'. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place…

I think it sold clothes or something

If so, the clothes are surely made of moleskin...


And I'm acutely aware of the fact that I'm not talking about recent discoveries and hot news

I hope you won't stress over that too much. Personally, I don't come to Tet Zoo for the hot-from-the press breaking news; I come for the thoughtful and well-informed analysis. That, and the occasional frivolous nonsense.

Actually, in Spanish, "desmán" is not only the animal; the word also means "outrageous behavior or excess." For example, "Spring-breakers are feared in Mexico because of their outrageous behavior/excesses (desmanes)." As a native Spanish-speaker, if I saw a store named "desmán" I would think it sells fashionable clothes geared to a young, possibly teen, market.

I enjoy the short posts!

hi there.

unlike [i imagine] most of the other visitors hereupon, i am a vintage clothing dealer.

aha! i guess this allows me to give you a professional's viewpoint [sort of]. yay or nay, as they say, this is my take:

you have here what i like to think of [for this brief moment] as antithetical pareidolia. as a non-spanish speaker the first thing i thought was: nope. it's somebody's last name.

then yr actual spanish speaker, raúl, enlightened this virtual community w/ an even more lucid elucidation.

either way, it's one of these: a/ last name or b/ spanish slang. if the owner of said store did his or her research [doubtful] it is possible that he or she got one or another kick out of the polysemetry & so referenced a frisky, party mole as part of their logo.

it is equally likely that the party mole [you should excuse the expression] has some sort of colloquial meaning in spain & the owner is referencing that--w/o knowing it's species at all.

throw in that the abovenoted mammal is represented vaguely enough that it could be not a mole but, instead, a rat [etc & ect]--another animal that could have its own symbolic meaning to which we non-spaniards are non-privy & you will understand my dalliance w/ the idea that this may very well be the darwinian equivalent of the intelligent designer's tortilla.

an intelligent design for a logo, i must say. or almost.

There used to be a feminist bookstore in Melbourne (Australia) called "Shrew Women's Books." I don't think it had a big sign over the shop front (low-budget operation, probably short term lease), but the sign in the door had a cartoonish drawing of a small mouselike animal... with a pointed nose.

Yay for Eulipotyphla!

By Allen Hazen (not verified) on 07 Jan 2009 #permalink

I would never have heard of Desmans either, save that one featured prominantly in "Life on Earth" - specifically the programme looking at the rise of the Mammals.

The Desman was used as an example of how early Mammals appeared and lived. The suquence - featuring a Desman attempting time and again to dislodge a worm from between rocks at the bottom of a river - was very memorable.

Time and again he tried, time and again he failed. But he refused to give in, and ultimately succeeded!

For those who are interested in the Russian desman but who have never seen one; at the ARKive website you can view a few video clips featuring Desmana moschata. (ARKive has live footage of Galemys pyrenaicus too, but it appears to be the same segment of film that was seen in David Attenborough's Life of Mammals.)

I love desmans, but since no one here in Brazil knows them I don't even know their portuguese name... I usually call them "desmanas" (their generic name).

PS: Sorry, but... what's a lipotyphlan? What happened to soricomorpha?

By Blue Frackle (not verified) on 08 Jan 2009 #permalink

By the way, about new dinos (sorry for offtop, but it is frivolous post). Darren, can you prove or disprove the discovery of Gigantoceratops? It is unicorn-looking ceratopsian. Searching mashines give links only to Japan sites, but not to original articles. Here it is a picture:
(Russian site, but the pic is in first post)
What can you say about it?

By Pavel I. Volkov (not verified) on 08 Jan 2009 #permalink

Hi Pavel. Gigantoceratops hercules was an April Fool's joke (for 2008), and - sad to say - no such animal has been described in the scientific literature.

I encounter the work of this artist (which is excellent) frequently in my research, and I've often used their pictures here at Tet Zoo. Does anyone know his/her name?

I don't know, but look at this site:
Brain explosion, I say. References with globe icons lead to pages describing Earth fauna in past... and in future. It's pity, but all descriptions are made in Japanese. If you know, you may enjoy in full degree. I looked at futuristic animals - they must drink less... Pokemons really rule!!!!

By Pavel I. Volkov (not verified) on 08 Jan 2009 #permalink

Speaking of "frivolous nonsense"...

... is the second annual "Ankylosaur Week" still on the agenda for mid-February?

And will there be promotional t-shirts available this time around?


The Desmana Moschata are ADORABLE!!!