Monday, September 22, 2008

Stercorarius parasiticus


© USF&WS Image

Earlier today I was enjoying Chris West's Wisconsin Point photo album and came across a photograph he had taken of a Parasitic Jaeger. He labeled it with the correct scientific name Stercorarius parasiticus. Below it Chris added, "in plain English: The Parasitic Hunter." Well, I know that "jaeger" is German for hunter, but that's not technically part of its scientific name. Its common name translates as Chris indicated, but I became curious and struggled to find a definition for stercorarius. I got a bit of a clue when Google kept returning information on the Dung Beetle – its full species name is Geotrupes stercorarius. There it was again, but I was beginning to think this exercise wasn't going to end well. Anyway, a few more searches revealed an entry from The Latin Sexual Vocabulary under Relating to Bodily Functions:

In the Republic and early Empire stercus was the standard term in technical and formal prose, and it continued to be late antiquity and survives in some Romance languages...These can be compared with the comparable range of derivatives which stercus already had in early Latin (e.g. stercoratio, stercorare, stercilinum, stercorarius in Cato)...Stercus was a very general word, which could indicate the excrement of any animal or of humans.

So...

Poop Parasite? Am I wrong!? Or can stercus also refer to regurgitated items?

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