Category Archives: taxonomy

Folk taxonomy, the postal service, and mailing live animals

Image:  Letterbox © Tim Green CC BY 2.0, via wikimedia.org. Don’t mail a live animal here.

Early in the summer, the legal humour blog Lowering the Bar had a good time with the fact that in the U.S. you can mail live scorpions – under certain amusing but also completely understandable conditions. (One of which is that they aren’t this kind.  Another is that they’re being mailed for use in medical research or the manufacture of antivenins.  So maybe I should have said that live scorpions can be mailed, because most likely you can’t mail them. This is probably just as well.)

This appealed to my admittedly peculiar sense of humour, so I promptly read the entirety of the U.S. Postal Service regulations on mailing live animals.  Then the equivalent Canada Post regulations.  Then the U.K. Royal Mail’s*.  I’m happy, today, to be able to share the results of my research with you.

Cultural anthropology and biology have an interesting point of contact in what are called “folk taxonomies”.  Continue reading

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