We’re all likely familiar with the terms “murder” of crows and “pride” of lions for assemblages of those animals. But marine animals groups have names, too, some familiar, some strange and some… really strange. As in, a “fluther” of jellyfish, a “risk” of lobsters and a “turmoil” of porpoises.
There’s not any point to any of this but still I felt impelled to produce a list, from fishes to sea birds, sharks to pelicans, after encountering several oddities in publications. Perhaps it’s a nice antidote to our time of pandemic.
YOU PROBABLY THINK THAT FISH SWIM IN SCHOOLS. GENERICALLY, A LOT OF THEM DO. But not all. Perusing photos recently, two of them identified bunches of stingrays as “fevers.”
Say what? This required research, admittedly of the Google sort. The result: It’s generally accepted that a group of rays is termed a “fever”….. for no apparent reason that I can find.
SHIVERS, ARMIES, FLUTHERS
Along the same lines, it develops that a bunch of sharks is a “shiver.” A bunch of herring is an “army.” And a bunch of jellyfish is a “smack,” “brood,” “swarm” or “bloom.”
Also, a “fluther.” According to the web, a bunch of jellyfish can be a “fluther.” Check it out in a dictionary and the word doesn’t exist, although in fact both National Geographic and Encyclopedia.com recognize the word. But then, neither does your basic dictionary recognize “fever” and shiver” as animal groups.
WHICH LEADS TO A QUESTION:
Who makes up these names? Apparently, the web does (group name: “The Web”). To be fair, I found both fever and fluther on more than one website. Conversely fair, the web is loaded with sites whose major approach to research is to just copy each other without question or attribution.
One website, Wictionary.com, has a disclaimer at the top: “Don’t trust this list; many of these entries are fanciful and never found outside of word lists.” Then, it proceeds with a full list.
Here’s my list, starting with fishes:
Fishes in general travel in schools or shoals. Also, in “draft,” “nest” and sometimes “runs.” Note that “shoal” may be an early word that evolved into “school.”
However, for whatever reason:
- A group of barracudas is a “battery.”
- A collection of eels is a “bed.”
- A group of herring is an “army.”
- A bunch of sardines is a “family.”
- Ocean-dwelling fishes like American shad and salmon that mass-migrate up inland riverways are “runs.” (In this case, one of many dictionary definitions for “run” is a more general group of animals moving together).
- Swordfish swim together in a “flotilla.”
- As mentioned, a gathering of manta rays, spotted rays or stingrays is a “fever.”
- And a lotta sharks is a “shiver.”
MARINE MAMMAL ANIMAL GROUPS
Whales travel in “pods.” Also, in “schools.” And, “gams,” which, actually, you never hear. In 19th Century whaling days, a gam was a meeting of two whaling vessels at sea for the purpose of …gamming, that is, exchanging news. In this context, gam can also be a verb. It may be a corruption of gabbing.
- Porpoises (and presumably dolphins) also travel in “pods,” “schools,” “herds” and “crowds.” But a bunch of them also can be a “turmoil.”
- Narwhals, the somewhat ethereal little arctic whales with the long tusks, get their own group name: a “blessing.”
- An assemblage of seals, at least female seals, is a “harem,” although when males are included it may just be a herd.
- Sea otters get together in “rafts” or “romps.”
CNIDARIAN ANIMAL GROUPS
Corals, of course, (I’m actually freelancing here, I didn’t find any listed words) come in “colonies.” They are colonial, well-connected animals. Also, I suppose, “reefs.” And “coralheads” and “coral stands,” which are words we need to describe structures of coral colonies.
- Sea anemones don’t seem to have a term, possibly because it’s very unusual to seem more than one of them at a time.
- Apparently, nobody bothers to name bunch of hydroids as a group. Actually, its hard enough to make people aware they are animals.
- Jellyfish: See above. Also, below.
MOLLUSK ANIMAL GROUPS
A group of octopuses is a “consortium” or a “rally” but a bunch of squids, fellow cephalopods though they are, is an “audience.”
- Cuttlefishes appear not to have a group name, but then, they are singularly solitary animals. Which, in fact, is true of octopuses, although I have seen a photo of a consortium of them together – mothers brooding eggs.
- Oysters and clams both lie around in “beds,” although one source also identifies a mass of oysters as a “parliament” and/or a “stare.”
- When snails get together, it’s a “rout,” “walk,” “hood,” or, for those with French pretensions, an “escargatoire.”
CRUSTACEAN ANIMAL GROUPS
- Crabs meet up in “casts” and “consortiums.”
- But a gathering of lobsters is a “risk.”
- Shrimp aren’t mentioned by anybody.
- Mantis shrimps don’t run in packs, but if they did they’d be “pack.” Being tough guys, they’d possibly be “marauding packs.”
REPTILE ANIMAL GROUPS
- A bunch of crocodiles is, what else, a “bask,” probably reflecting the cold-blooding creatures’ propensity for lying in the sun to warm up.
- However, an aggregation of alligators is a “congregation.”
- Iguanas gather together in “slaughters.” Don’t know why.
- Komodo dragons accumulate in a “bank,” like savings.
- A lot of turtles together is a “bale,” unless it’s a “spring.” Actually, except for mating and egg-laying purposes, you rarely see turtles together.
- If there’s a term for sea snakes, I couldn’t find it. The sources list “nest,” pit” and “den,” but those probably apply to land snakes. “Nests” would apply to kraikens, sea snakes that go ashore to lay eggs. That seems about it.
SEA BIRD ANIMAL GROUPS
It’s birds that get the really creative names, possibly because bird aficionados equal divers in their enthusiasm for nature. And, if you mostly see sea birds on a beach or from the deck of a boat, or on NatGeo Wild, it’s a lot easier.
Although none match the perfection of the meadowlark, a land bird: A group of larks is an “exhaltation.”
Flamingos come close: a bunch of flamingos can be a “stand,” but much more appropriately, if dubiously, they can be a “flamboyance.” It’s not in the dictionary, but the dictionary’s definition of flamboyant fits: “strikingly bold or brilliant.”
- A group of albatrosses constitutes a “rookery,” although the word is generally defined as a place where animals gather to breed. Which is mainly when albatrosses are found together.
- There are a lot of terms for penguin groups, including “rookery.” But supposedly penguins also congregate in “convents,” “tuxedos” “colonies” “musters” and “parcels.”
- A bunch of cormorants supposedly is a “gulp.”
- Herons en masse are a “sedge” or a “siege.”
- Pelicans a “pod” or a “squadron.”
- Seagulls a “squabble.”
- Plovers a “congregation” or “wing.”
THE ALFRED E. NEUMAN APPROACH *
Or, you can just call them all a “bunch” and not worry about it.
PRINCIPAL SOURCES: Pods, et.al., Dictionary.com; List of Names for Groups of Animals, Your Dictionary; 99 strange collective animal names, Earth Matters, mnm.com; A Comprehensive List of Animal Group Names, Owlcation; Pointless Animal Group Names, The Mighty Guru; 50 Collective Nouns for Your Favorite Groups of Animals, Mental Floss; A Glossary of Collective Nouns by Subject, Wictionary.org; List of Animal Names, Wikipedia.org; Box Jellyfish, National Geographic.
* For those of you too young to know, Alfred E. Neuman was the mascot for the great Mad Magazine. He still is, but his true heyday was the 1950’s-’60’s. His motto was “What? Me Worry?”