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Afghan reptile?

Pic of the Week: 28 February 2014

Stamp from Afghan "Reptiles" series, but featuring a beetle

This is bizarre: a stamp from Afghanistan, apparently from a series called “Reptiles” – but depicting a beetle!

Beetles aren’t at all closely related to reptiles, of course – they’re in a totally different branch (superphylum) of the animal kingdom. Even sea-urchins are more akin to reptiles than beetles are.

Maybe whoever it was in the Afghan postal service who designed the stamp had literary tastes. Captain Jack Aubrey in Patrick O’Brian’s series of naval novels refers to bees as “reptiles” when discussing his friend Stephen Maturin’s request to bring 60,000 of them onto his frigate. It seems like an odd mistake for a Fellow of the Royal Society to make, but then again Aubrey’s genius was for mathematics, not biology.

As you can see, the value of the stamp is 8 Afghanis. The Afghani is a currency unit, not the demonymic adjective for Afghanistan. If you encounter anyone talking about the “Afghani people” or the “Afghani government”, you can safely assume they haven’t spent much time around Afghans.

Want to find out more about the fascinating world of insects? Why not have a look at The Facts Lab Book of Insects for 101 amazing facts about our six-legged chums? If you’re quick, you can get it for free so go and do it now.

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