Koalas Aren’t Bears, So Why Do People Call Them ‘Koala Bears’?

Arnaud_Martinez/iStock via Getty Images
Arnaud_Martinez/iStock via Getty Images

If you—with no prior knowledge of koalas or pouched animals in general—spotted a tree-climbing, leaf-munching, fur-covered creature in the wild, you might assume it was a small bear. That’s essentially what happened in the 18th century, and it’s the reason we still call koalas “bears” today, even when we know better.

In the late 1700s, English-speaking settlers happened upon a small animal in Australia that looked like a small, gray bear with a pouch. It was soon given the scientific name Phascolarctos cinereus, which is derived from Greek words meaning “ash-gray pouched bear.” Essentially, naturalists had named the unknown animal based on its appearance and behavior, and people didn’t realize until later that the presence of a pouch is a dead giveaway that an animal is definitely not a bear.

According to Live Science, koalas and bears both belong to the same class, Mammalia (i.e. they’re mammals). Then their taxonomic branches diverge: koalas belong to an infraclass called Marsupialia. Marsupials, unlike bears, give birth to their offspring when they’re still underdeveloped, and then carry them around in pouches. Even if koalas look just as cuddly as bear cubs, they’re much more closely related to other marsupials like kangaroos and wombats.

Over time, people adopted a name that the Aboriginal Darug people in Australia used for the animal, koala.

But bear still stuck as a modifier, and scientists never went back and replaced arctos (from arktos, Greek for bear) in its genus Phascolarctos with something more accurate. So, technically speaking, koalas are still called bears, even by scientists.

Wondering how you can help the lovable non-bears survive Australia’s wildfires? Here are 12 ideas.

[h/t Live Science]

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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No Squawking, Please: A Backyard Bird Library Is the Star of This Livestream

Bird Library, YouTube
Bird Library, YouTube

Many people discovered backyard birding when they were quarantined in their homes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if you have a vibrant wildlife population in your area, the Bird Library webcam is worth checking out. As Atlas Obscura reports, the bird feeder at the focus of the livestream resembles a tiny library where feathered guests can misbehave.

Librarian Rebecca Flowers and woodworker Kevin Cwalina were inspired to build the Bird Library in 2015. Located in a backyard in Charlottesville, Virginia, it features a miniature reading chair, bookshelves, and a reception desk. The decorations are even updated to match the seasons; the feeder currently sports a banner that says "Summer Reading." The main differences setting it apart from a real library are the bird seed scattered on the floor and the avian visitors.

The Bird Library attracts a diverse collection of patrons. Sparrows, cardinals, and mourning doves have been recorded perching on the librarian's desk and checking out the reading materials. The occasional squirrel has also been known to stop by.

Live video of the feeder streams on the Bird Library's YouTube page and website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can play the video below to check in on the current guests. If the backyard Bird Library has inspired you to find birds closer to home, here's some gear for beginner naturalists.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]