Very Confusing Poster

I found this poster on pinterest for the order animalia, but it seems to be a mixure of biological classes and genuses:

For example, owls and eagles are both a part of aves, but this chart has them seperate for some reason. There are multiple other problems with it.

Something I thought was that maybe it is just an aesthetic poster, for style or learning latin words for various animals, rather than education, but looking at where this is sold, I am seeing many reviews from teachers saying that they bought this for their classroom. It makes more sense for a latin teacher to buy this, just so that their students could get some extra vocab of animals, but I am seeing that science teachers purchased them too.

Grouping genuses and classes like this just seems like it would cause confusion.

Does anyone have any opinions?


I agree with you that mixing groups on different levels, especially when some of the groups include the others but that’s not indicated, reduces the educational value of this poster (and many other like it) in a science classroom. I think often even science teachers put up posters like this just for aesthetic purposes. It looks nice in the classroom, gives a sciencey feel, and oh look Latin.

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It seems to be a Latin teaching aid, not a biology one.

It does fine for that job, and I’m guessing the chosen animals are there for different singular to plural forms [Edit: declensions, I’m an idiot].


The words are just the singular and plural nouns for each animal in Latin. I think it’s intended to be a Latin language poster for learning vocab, not a taxonomic poster. Some of the Latin words for the animals coincidentally are also the names of taxonomic groups, and the Latin word for “Animals” is also the name of the taxonomic kingdom for animals, but that’s not what the poster is about. I don’t think it was intended for a biology room at all. It even has a Roman-style laurel wreath in the background to match the aesthetic of a Latin classroom. Definitely meant for a Latin language classroom to learn noun endings and Latin vocab, not for a science classroom.


That is what I was thinking, especially since it has such popular animals on it. I was concerned though about its function being interperted the wrong way, as it apparently has judging by a few science educators’ reviews.

Singular nominative and accusative forms, not singular and plural ;)

It is a bit non-canonical – traditionally the nominative and genitive are used – but the principle is the same: the nominative forms often have a modified stem, and it isn’t always possible to tell which declension pattern they follow, so one learns nouns as a pair of two forms in order to be able to use them.

But definitely intended for Latin instruction rather than a science classroom. Though it would also be a nice opportunity for a lesson on semantic categories and how these don’t always align with scientific taxonomic categories.


Oh wow, that was an egregious mistake. It’s ok, my Latin teachers were probably already disappointed with me in advance!


No judgment for overlooking details of a language that too many people had forced on them during their school days.

I was the weirdo who voluntarily chose to study something completely impractical at university. Fortunately I was spared “De Bello Gallico” and skipped to the poets, or I probably would have abandoned the language, too…

Nowadays the opportunities to apply my knowledge of declensions – in however small a way – are few and far between. Though the Greek and Latin do help one to feel at home with scientific names as interpretable units of meaning rather than just unpronouncable combinations of letters.


The vireos are an unusual bunch of birds in that their common name in English, so I have read, is Latin for “I am green.” A complete sentence as a common name? Anyway, when I found that out, I gathered that Latin is one of those languages that does with verbs what English can only do with adjectives – stative verbs. If “vireare” means “to be green,” then I would guess at the conjugation,

vireo, vireas, vireat; vireamos, vireatus, vireant.

The canid does have a very tiny head. Maybe a maned wolf, but doesn’t look quite right for that either

The verb “vireo” is second conjugation, so “e” is the stem vowel, no “a”:

It has the sense of “to flourish” alongside “to be green/verdant”, but I suspect that the first- and second-person forms are not particularly common in either meaning. Most of the citations look like they are from poetry, so references to plants/nature.

The bird name apparently dates back to Pliny the Elder and is a third-declension (consonant-stem) noun: vireo, vireonis. Per Lewis & Short, it is derived from the verb, though I don’t quite understand the word formation and for some reason I have been unable to find relevant passage. There is a suggestion on this page that it is imitative but I am not completely convinced about this either.

It’s not known what bird he was referring to – hypotheses include the greenfinch (Chloris chloris) and the oriole (Oriolus oriolus) – but clearly there was some creative repurposing happening when the name was adopted for a New World genus.


Except when they are named after random people, then it’s back to barely pronounceable.

I found it quite interesting, mainly that it was all written by someone 2000 years ago. I had also discovered a French comic series called “Asterix” at the same time which featured Julius Caesar as a character so that made it extra fun :smile: In hindsight those 4 hours of Latin every week for 8 years were a big waste of time though, if I had learned a spoken language I could actually use it to talk to people now…

You can always head to Vatican City (or attend an increasingly rare traditional Latin mass) to use your latin! (though with a “church accent”)/ As a former Latin student, I did quite enjoy being able to use it (though not spoken) to read many inscriptions while living in the Eternal City.


Well, I think I’ve figured out why I couldn’t find the Pliny reference – there is a passage that in some editions contained the word “vireonem” but it seems that in the current/standard editions this is read as “chlorion” instead (Plin. Nat. 10.45)

More illuminating is the treatise Avium praecipuarum by sixteenth-century naturalist William Turner. Based largely on Aristotle – and, you guessed it, Pliny! – it contains a discussion of a bird he refers to as a “vireo”. Here it is evidently a Latinization of the Greek “chlorion” (the root meaning “greenish yellow”, “pale”, or “fresh”).

A digitalized version of text can be found here (in Latin and in an English translation from 1903), should anyone be curious:


I believe the “underwords” are in the accusative case: so, as a learning poster for Latin, it would be very helpful, declensions are such an ursus to learn. Signs in Pompeii warned, “Cave canem” when they had a fierce canis on the premises.

AND…!! For those thinking that learning a little Latin was a waste of time, I find it tremendously helpful for understanding and remembering species names and properties. Imagine the leap of understanding taken by Carolus Linnaeus-- before genetics and evolution reared their heads. It’s worth a visit to his garden in Råshult in Småland, Sweden: his brilliance in being able to categorize and arrange can be seen in childhood, when he was taught Latin by his minister father. Declensions let you refine
and decorate a concept without having to add extra words.

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Yes, confusing, imprecise, inconsistent. But, does it pretend to be non-confusing, precise and consistent? I think it is just something made by someone who, possibly, is not so much into taxonomy for readers who are exactly the same.

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No need to read the Bello. SPQR-Emporium sells a Tshirt (in the style of a band shirt) with Caesar’s tour dates (i.e. french cities that he liberated). Uxellodunum is missing there, though.

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