Zoos and Science Museums Are Giving Species 'Amazon Reviews' on Twitter, and It's Awesome

10/10 sea otter would buy again.
10/10 sea otter would buy again.
Photo: Paxson Woelber (Wikipedia)

Is there anything better than sciencey types geeking out over biodiversity in the form of overly earnest fake Amazon reviews? If the “rateaspecies” hashtag making rounds on Twitter this weekend is any indicator, probably not.

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It all started on Friday, when the Oregon Zoo posted this “review” of an exceptionally dashing river otter on its official Twitter account:

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Shervin Hess, digital media lead at the zoo, explained that the tweet was inspired by Lincoln, an orphaned sea otter pup that recently took up residence at the zoo and with whom Hess has been spending a lot of time lately.

“He’s perfect. He’s like my little otter son,” Hess told Earther in an email. “A few weeks ago I read an Amazon review for hiking boots and it was basically describing an him (waterproof, great for winter, only comes in brown). So the tweets just started writing themselves at that point.”

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Hess asked a friend on the social team at Monterey Bay Aquarium if they wanted to spend the afternoon rating species on Twitter, too. And indeed, they did—who wouldn’t? Other zoos, aquariums, and science museums soon joined in, adding pics of their favorite animals with hilariously on-point comparisons to various household products and consumer devices.

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This mantis shrimp, for instance, with its high-powered, clam-cracking appendages, would doubtless make an A+ seafood utensil. And really, can you fault the American Pika, a harmless floof that subsists off wildflowers and kindness, for anything other than being too cute?

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Initially, #rateaspecies was more fun and games than educational. But when the broader bio Twitter community got wind of what was happening, the high-concept nerd reviews started to pour in:

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Vultures, of course, are nature’s cleanup crew, scavenging carrion long after the carcass is too putrid for most other animals to eat. And apparently, the turkey vulture pictured above defends itself by vomiting!

The things you can learn from reviews, amirite?

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Hess said he was surprised to see #rateaspecies get the pickup it did, but noted that “celebrating wildlife can be a sort of therapy.”

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“I’m always looking for new ways to do animal therapy on social,” he continued. “[#rateaspecies] also spotlighted some less-loved creatures and why the planet needs them, like endangered California condors that help keep ecosystems healthy, and bats that control insect populations.”

As for which animal deserves the highest rating of all? Hess said that while he couldn’t imagine giving any animal less than four stars, river and sea otters topped his personal list.

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“They are evolutionarily designed to bring joy,” he said.

Maddie Stone is a freelancer based in Philadelphia.

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DISCUSSION

penguinlust2electricboogigloo
PenguinLust2:ElectricBoogigloo

The “white alligator” lives at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo. If any Jezzie’s come to town and want to see a top 3 zoo (really, our zoo is amazing) I would be more than happy to take your on a personal tour. That zoo is in my (and my sons as I sucked him into the cult at 3 months old) DNA. We know every inch and it is awesome and expanding and changing every year.

Penguins (obvs - look at my user name), lemurs, rain forests, butterflies, sharks, gorilla babies, everything.

It is my favorite place. No lie. If you asked me where I would want to be when I die it would be there. Anywhere within the confines of the zoo. But the aquarium in front of the Penguin’s would be my choice.

Omaha is not on most people’s bucket list, but it should be just for this (and you can have an amazing steak if that’s what floats your boat).