Follow the Chinchilla

We begin with a chinchilla.

Naturally, I wanted one within five seconds of seeing it. But before investing in the life of a lovable creature: a little bit of research.

crepuscular, adj.
3. Zool. Appearing or active in the twilight. [OED]

The first Google result was the Wikipedia article that began, “Chinchillas are crepuscular rodents…” A cute fuzzy critter most active at dusk and dawn–well, that seemed better than the adoring puppy that you could save from the shelter and then abandon during its livelier hours. What a strange existence, though–raring to go only at brief transitional periods between longer stretches of darkness and light?

diurnal, adj.
3. In Zool., spec. of animals active only during the day. [OED]

nocturnal, adj.
2a. Of an animal: active chiefly or exclusively at night. [OED]

Chinchillas are not alone with this preference. Desert critters tend to prefer twilight because day and night temperatures can be just unbearable. Many rodents and insects (perhaps small creatures like gnomes), are also crepuscular, presumably because predators are predominately diurnal or nocturnal. Moving a lot at those times could put fuzzy dearest into the jaws and claws of, say, a velociraptor.

matutinal, adj.
2. Rising early; active or alert in the morning. [OED]

vespertine, adj.
1b. Of animals, birds, etc.: Appearing or especially active in the evening. [OED]

Even more specialized are the creatures who are matutinal–most active at dawn–and vespertine–sunset-activated. In this narrow band of time, we’re usually talking about plants that open their flowers. But bats and owls are also cited as vespertine depending on the species and the source you’re reading.

With animals that move around for extended periods of time, the correct use of these obscure terms and the more commonplace nocturnal and diurnal gets pretty nit-picky. The creatures most frisky only in the evenings are often awake throughout the night, but the precise occurrence of their peak activity (be it internal or external) technically makes them vespertine, not nocturnal.

It’s a small detail.


The chinchilla led me to two conclusions.

One, should I get a chinchilla, it would cheerfully greet me if I were to come home from my theoretical 9-5 job and again when I wake up for an early-morning commute. That sounds pretty good to me! Then again, it would also watch me while I sleep. Steadily. Maybe lovingly. But probably in such a way that would haunt my dreams.

So that’s a consideration, but much more frivolous.

variable, adj.
1. Liable or apt to vary or change [OED]

Second, this blog would not be called, as I originally decided, Vespertine Variations. As graceful and lovely as it sounds, I find it too restrictive to describe what this blog will contain.

What you read here will be far more variable than that.

Because how can you not.

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