I like to think that when people visit Ecology for the Masses, they come to quench their insatiable curiosity about the ecological world and all its mysteries, and just want a well-reasoned, accessible answer to their issues (and also to figure out whether birds are reptiles of course).
But of course sometimes someone who isn’t looking for top-shelf ecology content and comics (thank you Tanya) stumbles across our site. And thanks to the magic of WordPress I often get to see what strange question brought them to the site. So because it’s the first Monday back for the year (and my first day of work in two weeks) let’s have a look at and try to answer some of the weirder search terms that brought readers to Ecology for the Masses this year.
1. Evil looking duck
If you’ve met me for more than 20 minutes or read my take on ducks, you’ll know that I consider every duck to be an evil-looking duck. Hey Hey It’s Saturday fans probably share my opinion (90s Aussie kid joke). But if I really had to pick a more objectively evil-looking quacker, it’s probably the Bullockornis. Quacker might be a false tag here, as these massive flightless prehistoric birds weren’t part of the duck family (Anatidae). But they were originally thought to be carnivores, and when someone foisted the nickname ‘Demon Duck of Doom’ on them, it stuck.
This swan on the right is still a massive creep though.
2. Are chickens reptiles?
Ok, so birds being reptiles is something that Adam has covered, and damned if it doesn’t draw the crowds. I include this one because of an conversation with my kid earlier this year. We were at a zoo in central Norway and he insisted that chickens couldn’t be reptiles, because LOOK AT THEM.
Totally fair enough. The disconnect between our traditional ideas of birds and reptiles is hard to overcome. But if you ever find yourself baulking at the fact that birds belong in the Reptilia family, just look at their feet.
3. Pseudo science annoying
If any year presented the perfect example of just how damaging pseudoscience could be, it was 2020. Pseudoscience and poor understanding (and communication) of legit science killed people in 2020 on a very visible scale. Let’s hope that the public’s relationship with science improves in the near future. Drinking bleach won’t help in the fight against climate change either.
4. Did Ross believe in evolution?
I enjoy this one so much because Ross would have been fuming at the idea that someone could believe or not believe in evolution. He’s got a point to be honest. We might call it the theory of evolution, but the distinction between a ‘law’ and a ‘theory’ in science is a lot fuzzier than you might think.
BUT that doesn’t mean Ross isn’t still the worst friend.
5. What are the evil work of marmade spirit in human body?
Last year Adam and I recorded an episode of Cinematica Animalia concerning the ecology of mermaids, in which we discussed some speculative mermaid reproductive and evolutionary ecology. So naturally some people looked up ‘mermaid sex’ and found this site, which went into the 2019 ‘Best Ecology Search Terms’ article. This inadvertently doubled the number of people winding up on our site looking for ‘mermaid sex’.
I’m not describing it here you perv. Go and listen to the episode.
6. How to prevent evil birds?
Chickens are probably the most evil birds, seeing as 70% of bird life today is poultry. So in direct opposition to my advice in this article last year, stop eating them.
7. Define herbivores. And write down the names of herbivores from the Lion King movie.
This hands-down wins “most-obvious-primary-school-homework-task” for 2020. I really hope that the teacher set the follow-up question “WHY does all the vegetation disappear” (and given that “why does the landscape change lion king” was another search term, they did). And potentially also “why didn’t anyone explain trophic cascades to Jon Favreau”.
8. Cats are destroying the planet
Look outdoor cats are just the worst. They spread disease, kill native species at incredible rates and probably do other awful things in their spare time like leaving their mobile phones on the table while people are having dinner and talking loudly about CrossFit. But I don’t know if you can necessarily add ‘planetary destruction’ to their list of ambitions.
9. Ate outdoor cats bad?
Yes you are bad. Outdoor cats are bad, but please do not eat them. As well as this being unlikely to go down well with your neighbours, there’s a reason that carnivores know not to eat the carcasses of other carnivores. Do yourself a favour and forego eating cats.*
Sam Perrin is a freshwater ecologist currently completing his PhD at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology who is looking forward to another year full of variants of ‘IS BIRZ REPTALE’ filling the search terms. You can read more about his research and the rest of the Ecology for the Masses writers here, see more of his work at Ecology for the Masses here, or follow him on Twitter here.